The Kids and Feminism

Sometimes I think I must be crazy. Here I am, at my computer, at 5:15 in the morning, because of course I couldn’t sleep again. The dog was on the bed and at about 3 seemed to have a rather loud case of the hiccups, which woke me. I haven’t been able to sleep since.

But that has given me a chance to catch up on some of the reading I’ve been meaning to do, including an article Kimball sent me about a boy who, at age 14, achieved nuclear fusion. Absolutely incredible! The thing that strikes me the most, and gives me the most pause, is the support that young man had from his parents.

I spent some time looking into the Davidson Academy in Reno, and I have to say that I am cautiously interested in sending Erica there. (This is why I asserted, at the beginning of this post, that I must be crazy. Move to Nevada? Because of a junior high/high school?) While it may sound extreme, articles like the one I linked to above make me realize the importance of allowing these children to develop their potential.

Which brings me to another topic entirely: feminism. I have recently become aware that I identify strongly with feminism. There have always been things about the way women and girls are treated in society (here and globally) that have bothered me, and only recently have I been able to find a name for that and recognize what, exactly, it is that has bothered me so much. Our society seems to have made some pretty great advances on this front over the last several years. And while I’m grateful for that, I do have some difficult feelings about what my church teaches girls and women about their roles and potential. My daughter is extremely intelligent. Call me proud if you want, but her intellect is a fact that I have to live with on a daily basis. And I know that at church she is being taught, and will be taught, that her “calling” in life is to become a wife and a mother.

Now don’t get me wrong – being a wife is a wonderful thing, and I suggest it to any woman who finds a man as great as my husband. And being a mother is an experience with so many great benefits, and it can be very fulfilling. BUT… I don’t know that this is the best course for everyone. And for that reason, feminism really encompasses what I feel about my daughters.

My son is being taught his importance. He is being taught by his church and by society that he can be whatever he wants. That he can do anything he sets his mind to. That his potential is great, and that there are numberless opportunities out there for him to become whatever will fulfill him.

My daughters, however, are not consistently receiving the same encouragement. The focus for girls in the LDS church is constantly on becoming a wife and mother. Nurturing and being in the home as much as possible. Which is great… if that’s what you want.

But what if it isn’t?

I want my girls to know that they can be whatever they want. That if they choose to be wives and mothers, I will be thrilled. That if they choose to pursue a career, I will be equally thrilled. That the world is open to them just as it is to my son. That their personal worth is not defined by their ability to bear and raise children. That they are not “less” if they choose a path that leads them away from motherhood.

My youngest told me recently what she wants to be when she grows up: A doctor (specifically a pediatrician), a teacher (specifically a preschool teacher), and a mom. And I think that is wonderful. I think if she wants to do those things, then she should. I think it is laudable that she wants to make a contribution to society in all those ways, and I am thrilled that she sees her own potential to be whatever she chooses. But I do worry so much that her professional goals for herself will be squashed as she gets older and realizes the tendency of the church to marginalize women’s roles in the business world.

My children have incredible brains. They are capable of so much. I worry so much less about my son realizing his potential than I do about my daughters in the same regard. What I want for all three of them is happiness. In whatever form they find it. If that means being parents, finding a career, curing cancer, or traveling to space (or any combination of the multitude of options out there), all I really want is for them to do what THEY want. I don’t want my children living life by someone else’s plan.

And so, at 5 in the morning, I am here, on the computer, wondering what to do with my oldest child in 3 more years when she exhausts the current school program. Wondering what she will want when she reaches adulthood. Hoping that she will have been given the tools and the encouragement to be what she feels will give her happiness. And feeling the weight of my responsibility to instill that belief in her, despite what she may hear elsewhere.

So call me crazy. Call me a heretic. Call me whatever you will, but know that for me, the most important thing about raising these children is helping them know that I want, most of all, for them to find joy and fulfillment in their lives.

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1 Response to The Kids and Feminism

  1. Brooke says:

    I found your blog through Jenni’s and I love this post. I’m part of a Mormon feminist group on Facebook (let me know if you want an invite, sometimes just knowing other people have the same thoughts you do is a relief) and this comes up ALL the time … how the young men are taught leadership and authority and responsibility and the young women are taught to be entertained or patronized, or worse … silent. How on the one hand our church teaches divine potential, but on the other offers girls and women such limited options for the here and now compared to what is really out there. The culture of women in our church seems so incongruous with the actual gospel in that way. There’s change happening … I’ve heard it in talks in conference. Elder Cook’s last time about working moms was excellent. But it’s slow and so much happens at the ward level that it’s hard to combat and I also worry about what my kids will hear at church/in seminary and if what I say at home will be enough to help them be confident and assertive.

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