Feminism, especially Mormon Feminism, has been swirling around me for a couple of weeks now, and the more people get into it, the more uncomfortable I become.
Why am I not a feminist?
Because I don't trust the feminists to understand what women want or to fight for their right to be women--with all that entails. Consistently, they seem to be pushing either a) women being superior to men or b) women becoming men. They also spend a LOT of time denigrating motherhood (which is the ultimate female condition, in my opinion, and worth honoring and glorifying) and trying to convince women that babies are a trap that will destroy your life.
They are out of sync with what it means to be a woman, and they seem to despise the fact that they are women, instead of embracing it. (Maybe I'm reading the wrong things. Or maybe they're presenting themselves poorly, but this is how I feel about what I read that they are saying. I feel like most of them are in the echo chamber.).
Take this, for example: http://womanstats.org/newmapspage.html. Great set of maps showing women's freedoms and issues all over the world. And what did they put smack in the middle? Birth rate. And the lower a country's birth rate, the higher the score they get.
This is outlandish! Why have they placed motherhood on the same level as rape and being denied property rights as bad things for women? This makes no sense at all. Low birthrates are not ideal for society. They lead to economic troubles. Low birth rates are actually less healthy for women in some measures (breast cancer, for example, is less prevalent where women are having and nursing babies). Plus, it should not be seen as a shame, as something inflicted on women, as something to be eradicated on behalf of women. As if no women wanted to have babies! This is absurd and offensive. Why do these feminists presume to impose their anti-motherhood ideals on the rest of us?! Clearly, they aren't fighting for my rights.
If it were me, I'd be fighting for more support for moms, more respect for their important role in society, and more freedom for them to stay home and raise their kids in peace instead of being forced back into the workplace as quickly as possible. Consequently, this offended me, too: http://www.foxnews.com/world/2013/03/08/france-president-wants-more-dads-to-take-time-off-to-care-for-their-babies/?test=latestnews. I'm in favor of dads getting leave to be with their kids and wife, but not so that the mom can get back to work as soon as possible. This ignores biology and how long it really takes to recover from childbirth, and it seems someone forgot to ask the moms what they wanted!
This is the very behavior the feminists say they're fighting against: people (and nature) imposing their wills on women without the women's input. But they're doing it to other women! (It's like the pilgrims, fleeing religious persecution in England so they could freely persecute other religions in America).
I was also disheartened by this: http://www.kansascity.com/2013/03/23/4138875/instead-of-leaning-in-i-chose.html. On the surface, this woman is saying the same thing I am--it's okay to lean back from your job and put your family first. But she also agrees with a bunch of things Sheryl Sandberg says about women at work. And what do those things add up to: Women, you need to be more like men in order to be successful and valuable at work. What the heck? Why do we have to write off a woman that cries and figure what she's crying about is "just hormones" and to be ignored? Why not listen to her? Why do they define it as "being concerned about being liked" instead of rightfully defining it as "being concerned about relationships and people's feelings"? And why do we have to stop caring about relationships? Why not ask men to respect that women care and use that to the advantage of everyone instead of trying to get rid of it? Why do women have to turn into men in order to succeed in jobs, instead of being valued for being women?
See, that's the feminist in me. She just also happens to be the anti-feminist in me.
It's that same feminist in me that says, "We should value women for who and what they are--both in work and in society. And that includes in their desires to be women, with all that entails, and to raise children and be with them." Not to say that all women must desire to raise children and be with them. But most of the women I know have those desires already. And we start feeling really beaten down by all the people telling us that's so stupid.
So I am still thinking about how (and if) to address the Mormon Feminist thing in any kind of detail. I know (and care deeply about) women on all sides of this. (Okay, I don't know any who personally are asking to be ordained to the priesthood, but I do know some that are asking to be able to have traditionally priesthood callings, even if they don't have the priesthood). I don't want to offend or dismiss anyone's deeply-held feelings on this.
But I have observed a few things:
The Mormon Feminists keep telling me I'm unhappy, that women's needs are not being met in the church, and that this dissatisfaction is widespread and pervasive. But their views do not in any way fit my own personal experience--I'm not unhappy, my needs most certainly ARE being met, and I have found that the great, massive majority of LDS women I know do not feel unhappy and unfulfilled, so my experience is that it is NOT pervasive or widespread. (Clearly there is a disconnect here, and I wish they would stop telling me how I feel. It would be easier to have a conversation about things.)
Many (but not all) of the women I know who are openly supporting the Mormon Feminists are also not active in the church and haven't been for some time.
Many of the women I know who are openly supporting the Mormon Feminists are trained (by education and profession) to see the world in terms of inequalities. This is not a bad thing--they're the ones pushing for change in things like how the Pinewood Derby is run because it puts poor kids and boys without a dad-who-was-raised-in-scouting at a serious disadvantage. Consequently, though, they see everything in terms of inequalities, and they, like most of us, tend to define "inequal" as "not the same," especially since civil rights made it clear that "separate but equal" is usually a fiasco. This viewpoint can be suddenly very tricky when you have to deal with biological unsameness, like between the sexes. (I do recognize, by the way, that we all have our "Glasses" that we see through, including me. Not saying that's a bad thing--just making an observation.)
Many of the arguments I hear from Mormon Feminists are very clear in terms of what but not clear in terms of why. They clearly and lucidly explain what they want, but they rarely clearly state why--voluntarily or in response to a question.
There is a sometimes subtle (and often not-so-subtle) disdain (or outright hatred) of men in a lot of what they are saying and publishing online.
While they talk a lot about research and history and finding truth in our past, a lot of what I've seen published by the Mormon Feminists seems to be based on a severely revisionist history that I'm not comfortable with--and the more research I do using their materials, the less comfortable I am with it.
1. I am not inclined to trust feminists to protect my interests anyway, and I have (possibly unfairly) assumed Mormon Feminists are no more likely than any other feminists to a) listen to women who have different views than they do, especially if those views tend toward the traditional, and b) fight for women in general instead of their own agendas. (I hear 3rd Wave feminists are different than this, but apparently I've yet to meet any in print).
2. Until I get answers--real answers, not just hogwash--as to WHY the feminists want something (like lower birth rates or women to have the priesthood), I can't support them in their pursuits. Hiding the whys make all their requests seem nefarious. For example, they say they want changing tables in the men's bathrooms at church. WHY do they want this? It can't be for their own benefit, because they are not allowed to change diapers in the men's room anyway. And it can't be for the daddy's benefit because the daddies seem perfectly comfortable changing diapers on a blanket on the floor or on the couch in the foyer. Daddies in my ward change diapers in the mother's lounge when it's empty, which it often is. So WHY are the feminists asking for this? Seems like a pertinent question. If the Daddies were asking for this, too, that would be one thing. But for just the Mormon Feminists to ask this?
3. I am deeply uncomfortable with the idea of pitting men and women against each other. I know the feminists say this is exactly what they're fighting against, the thing I keep wanting to ask them is, "Do you value men? Do you REALLY value men, for who they are?" Because it doesn't need to be a gender vs gender thing. The men need to really value the women, but the women also need to really value the men. And barring evidence of that, I have a hard time joining the fight because I'm not interested in doing something that would ultimately be detrimental to my husband, my father, my brothers, my sons.
4. I am a strong advocate of unity. This is not the same as making everyone the same--I'm deeply opposed to that. But unity driven by charity (real charity, as both described and defined in Moroni 7) is important to me, and so far the approach feminists take--to just about everything, even asking simple questions--seems divisive rather than unifying.
(Note: I've been told 3rd Wave Feminists don't fit the things I've observed here and are more woman-friendly, pushing women's rights to do whatever they want, including being moms "if that's what they really want". Good for them. Maybe these 3rd wavers start speaking up sometime soon?)