Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Dirty "F" Word

I am thankful for my feminist friends for encouraging me to really ponder what it means to be a woman. I'm thankful for debates they've caused in my mind as I battle these issues out. And I'm thankful for the strong women that they are and for everything that they stand for.

Feminism is somewhat of a dirty word in our culture. When I say our culture, I don't just mean BYU or even the church as a whole. For many people in the US, feminism brings up images of manly women, bra burners who don't shave or wear make-up as some sort of protest against femininity.

I don't remember who it was, but someone posted this article a while ago. As I read it, I thought "Holy cow! Of course I'm a feminist! Women are equal to men! Women are human beings!" I  talked to Greg about it and we were discussing the stigmas (stigmata? the internet said both were acceptable?) associated with feminism- you know, "Feminazis," man-haters," etc. Because of these people, some women are afraid to associate themselves with feminists - even though we all want men and women to be treated equally.

After I read this article, I considered myself a feminist. But over time, I have become more uncomfortable with feminism again. Why? I feel like a lot of people who focus on the idea of "feminism" spend way too much time being offended by things. Take for example this article, which attacks Victoria's Secret for selling sexy underwear because women shouldn't need to be sexy in order to feel good about themselves. Uhh... really? What is wrong with women wanting to feel sexy? I know you can go into all the psychology of it and say that the reason women like to feel sexy is for men and that's not fair! We're empowered women! But really? It's a store (a store that sells very high quality underwear and bras, I might add).

Another issue I have comes from seeing how some people struggle so much with their identity as women in the church because of their feminist beliefs. I've even noticed myself picking up on the slightest comments about the role of womanhood and becoming defensive about them. In the contexts of these struggles, this line in the first article stood out to me:
"Feminism also isn’t about trying to make women the same as men – in contrast, feminism recognizes the difference between the sexes and asks that both sides be treated fairly and equitably based on their unique needs."
So how is that different from the church saying that men and women have equally important but different roles in a family? What use is it getting offended about the truth of a mother's role as a nurturer? Maybe I just believe in a loose interpretation of some of these ideals, but I don't think that the core beliefs of the church limit women at all. The family proclamation doesn't say women should not be educated and should be stay at home moms. It just says "Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children." I think some cultural quirks have developed, which lead to the frustration felt by many women. But I think that women in the church have the freedom and the power to do whatever they want with their lives and to still be OK in God's eyes- as long as they remember their most important role as a wife and mother. Travel the world. Work full-time. Work part-time. Be a stay at home mom. Do whatever you want! Just remember who you really are.

I've ultimately decided that I'd rather be a feminist than not be one. But I'm not going to be one of those feminists who gets offended by everything.


  1. I remember in my socialism class at BYU one of my teachers mentioning that President Hinckley is (was) a feminist. I think we often misunderstand what that is really supposed to mean because of a few extremists.

  2. Ignore the username, this is Owen.
    Stigmata generally refers to "marks resembling the wounds of the crucified body of Christ, said to be supernaturally impressed on the bodies of certain persons, especially nuns, tertiaries, and monastics." ( It is plural for stigma as well, but I think most people would recognize "stigmas" more readily as the plural.
    Feminism does tend to get kind of get muddied in the public eye, based on a general misunderstanding of the term due to people who take it to extremes, because those are the only ones you hear about. There are whole blogs devoted to extreme feminism, ranging from people who will be offended by anything to borderline misandry. You never hear of moderate feminists because no one wants to read (or write) a blog where someone just says, "Well, I'd just like to be treated equally, and given the same opportunities and options as men." Honestly, any woman that wouldn't consider herself a feminist (in the true sense of the word, desiring the same rights and treatment for women as men have) has some serious issues. And any man that isn't a feminist (even if he doesn't know it or wouldn't refer to himself as such) is a misogynist that needs to grow up.
    That said, I don't think there's necessarily any problem with straying from what one would consider the traditional gender roles in a family. I honestly think that's up to the couple in question.
    They have socialism classes at BYU? Interesting.
    Sorry for the mini-essay, I just thought that was an interesting post.