The Life of Bon: Be ye a Feminist?!?

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Be ye a Feminist?!?

I love to be feminine.  I love everything girly and soft and pretty.

But lately I've been wondering if I am a feminist.

These thoughts have been triggered by a group of Mormon feminists who want equality and respect and even want to be able to wear pants to church, dang it!  I have also been reading a lot of C Jane, who is one of my favorite Mormon bloggers, and she pushes feminism so strongly that it makes my uterus start to hurt.

If I were being totally honest with you I would have to admit that I don't much know what it means to be a feminist except for that you don't think men are any  better than woman.  I'll agree with that! Men are great.  But there isn't much in this world that I would trust a man to do over a woman.

Growing up, there were some clear gender roles in my family.  I remember being frustrated when my mom would call downstairs for me to come up and help with dinner while my brother was sitting on the couch watching TV right next to her.  Couldn't she see I was busy?  Why couldn't Reed help her if he wasn't doing anything?  But it had to be me because I was the girl.

Once I explained these frustrations to Reed.  He said to me, "Bonnie.  Does dad ever make you chop wood?"
"Uh.... no."
"When it's cold downstairs does he make you build a fire or does he come find me to do it?"
"Uh... I guess you..."
"And how many times did you mow the lawn last summer?"
"Point proven."

Yes.  The point was proven.  Although clearly not the point that Reed meant to prove.  He was trying to prove to me that he did just as much work to help out around the house, if not more, than I did.  What he didn't mean to prove was that there were clearly defined gender roles in my family.  I would have liked to have built a fire.  I really would have.  And Reed probably wouldn't have minded stirring the soup.  But my mom didn't look to him to do that and my dad certainly didn't trust me to build a fire.

So then it's true.  I am a feminist.

Now.  People could argue that there are just some things that men are better at and there are just some things that women are better at.  I don't know if I totally agree.  I get a lot of satisfaction from my job.  I enjoy working outside the home.  I feel fulfilled by my work.  Part of my fears of having a baby are that I will miss working outside of the home.  I don't feel like I am a natural nurturer.  Truthfully, Hubs is the much better nurturer in our relationship.  He loves animals and babies and gives his love freely to any who will take it.  I, on the other hand, turn up my nose and am bothered by anybody who is too needy or craves abundant affection and care.

I'm not really sure what any of that means.  What I do know is that sometimes I feel like people feel bad for me because I work full time- like a woman shouldn't have to do that.  I don't think that's right that they do that. They don't realize that I enjoy it and get so much satisfaction from it.  Sometimes people look down on a man for being sensitive or tender and I don't think that's right either.  Why must we have men roles and women roles?

In the same breath... I have no desire to join in on this little crusade and wear pants to church on Sunday.  I don't need to wear pants to demand respect or to say I want to be treated as equal. A dress does not take away my power or respect.

So then it's settled.  I want to wear a dress to church on Sunday.  I am not a feminist.

But wait.  What about this?  I am currently harassing the administration for more women in leadership roles at my school. Our student government has two advisers-  traditionally it has been a man and a woman.  The woman currently in the position is leaving next year and they have just this week replaced her with a man.  I am upset.  I do not feel two men should do that job.  Thus, I sent the following letter to my male principal, the male student government advisors, the three male vice principals... and the one female vice principal.

To whom it may concern,
I have heard through the grapevine that Mr. Aber has been chosen as the new student government adviser to replace Miss Vee.  I am troubled that there wasn't an effort made to get a woman in that role.  Our administration is made up of almost entirely men, and I feel that as far as leadership in our school goes, women are under represented.  I would have loved to see a woman fill the hole that Miss Vee will be leaving.  I have no doubt that Mr. Aber is capable of functioning in his new position, but the ideas and influence that a woman can have on such a group is entirely different than that of a man.  As Mr. Rancy is currently representing the men by functioning as a student government adviser,  it seems fair to me to at least try to fill the other role with a woman.
Thank you. 

So yah.  There was that.  I am a feminist now?

I realize this post makes little to no sense.  I think it is stupid to wear pants to church but I also think it is stupid to assume the woman is the best nurturer in the family.  I think a woman should enjoy feeling pretty and dolled up, but I also believe an effort should be made to get more women in strong leadership positions.  I believe men and women are totally the same and totally different.  I believe a woman should be able to work full time and support her family if she wants and the man should be able to cook dinner and change diapers if he wants.  I love celebrating my femininity-  trying on new clothes and dressing up in high heels and donning bright lipsticks.  But I also like to engage in intelligent conversations and be involved in politics and in making important decisions.

I want to be treated like a woman and in the same breath, I wanted to be treated like a man.

Figure that one out for me, will ya?


  1. This is a fabulous post. I think I agree with every word you said. I might have to re-read it to be sure, but I think it's worth my time to re-read it. Well spoken! Er...written!

  2. This was brilliantly put. I agree completely. Women and men are absolutely the same, but overwhelmingly different.

  3. Have you seen Mona Lisa Smile? There is a lot about that movie I don't love, but when Julia Stiles' character tells Julia Roberts' character that she can be what ever she wants to be including a mom and housewife, that kind of defines my brand of feminism. I worked outside of the home and made the most money until just recently and I liked it. But I want traditional gender roles in my marriage and if I can be what ever I want to be, why not that?

    And the pants to church thing is funny, because, as my friend pointed out, no male church leader (well, general church leader, I guess I can't speak for local leaders) has ever said you CAN'T wear pants. So what exactly are they protesting?

    PS about being a nurturing mom, the kids I nanny and one of my nieces have told me that I'm not nice. And I agree with them. Little kids kind of annoy me and gross me out, so I'm not as nice as I wish I was. But I'm a dang good mom! And thank goodness for my husband for which things come more naturally. I would be lost with out him.

    1. Perfect example for how I think also. I was actually trying to remember the movie so I could post it myself. Great line.

  4. Wear pants to church? Sheesh.... If women can wear pants to church then they should be required to be tortured with a tie. (Says my husband).
    Love this post.

  5. I loved this post. Preach it Bonnie! Don't feel confused feminism is about having a choice. You have a choice, so you rock those skirts and dresses to church! You go girl!

  6. yes. there are so many things i wish to say about the pants thing that doesnt relate to your arguments, but THANK YOU i agree with everything you said. i don't like the pressure i feel to be a stay at home mom. if i want to i will, but i shouldnt feel pressure from mormon culture/society to do so. and i guess the same goes for pants. if people want to wear their sunday best pants to church, go ahead and they shouldn't have to fear mormon culture/society. but personally i feel that my sunday best is a nice dress and i will go along with tradition because that is what i'm comfortable with and because i don't feel any less equal than a man for it.

  7. Love this post. I don't really see the problem because it has never been said you can't wear pants to church...I will stick with a dress on Sunday, or maybe a skirt hmmmm....

  8. I totally loved reading your post and couldn't agree more. I don't feel the need to wear pants to church this sunday, but I feel like woman should have stronger roles at church. I have worked most of my married life and never regretted it, it actually makes me a better mother, even my husband says so. Does it means I'm less nurturing? heck no, but I don't like the looks I get at church when I say I do work.

  9. Feminism is one of those "words" that is loaded with heavy opinions, mixed emotions and convoluted connotations. I think true feminism boils down to this: If you believe you have every right to be happy as a wife, mother, professional, woman, a human being, you are a feminist. I get kind of frustrated at times with the whole "Mormon culture demands of me" argument, just because I agree with 'Mormon culture' doesn't mean I'm brain washed and just because someone doesn't agree with it doesn't mean they are rebellious, anti-Mormon or even (dare I say it...) 'progressive'. I consider myself a feminist...I work full time, am perpetuating my education and bygolly I hate it. All I ever wanted was a house and babies, but years of failed fertility treatments is blurring out that path as an option. I work when I want to be home with a herd of babies, some women are home when they would rather work, all aspects of life are important, beautiful and worthwhile...I think feminism is just not taking that knowledge for granted.

  10. I think I was more "culture shocked" by this post than anything. Here (Iowa) women wear pants to church and would be looked at strangely if they came dressed in "their Sunday best"...though I understand our religions are different (I'm Catholic), it is still very strange to me and eye-opening to read about the controversy that even exists! I don't think it means any of us love the Lord any less OR are showing any signs of disrepest OR femininity or lack thereof, just very different ways of life.

    You've got my mind spinning just thinking about all of it--which is great writing, from one English teacher to another! :) #mindblown

  11. This whole "wear pants to church thing" has been totally obnoxious to me. Because church is definitely the place where people should be making their political statements....not! Women are women for a reason. Not saying that we can't chop wood or change a tire, or that the men can't change a diaper or do the laundry...that is all about balance in relationships. I feel like only in Utah is this even a controversial topic, so weird!!

  12. Feminism to me is this: the belief that women are inherently equal to men and capable of doing what they do at an equal level, without requiring them to necessarily fulfill all of that. I consider myself a feminist, but I don't hate men and I love wearing dresses and high heels.

    I grew up similarly to you: my dad raised my brother up to do certain things and my mom raised me up to do certain things. But I'll tell you, probably since the day I was born I would rather handle trash and recycling than food and dirty dishes. And it will probably be that way until I die.

  13. I really respect your religion but I'm pretty shocked that you can't wear trousers to church. If you are respectfully dressed aren't you there to worship and build your relationship with God? How does wearing pants or a skirt affect that?! I have Mormon friends here in Australia and now I'm going to have to be nosey and ask if that is the culture at their temple.

    I'm disappointed with the lack of female representation in clergy in the majority of religions. A recent Australian study found that 60% of church attendees (all denominations) are older women with tertiary educations. Yet they are being preached to by middle aged white men. I understand that it is ordained that only men hold the priesthood in the Mormon Church, but as an outsider looking in I just can't as yet wrap my head around it.

    I am not trying to be rude about your religion (or anyones) so i sincerely hope this comment is not taken as that. I'm just saying that I don't get it. I look forward to hearing more about these issues on your blog and others- I also really love C Jane Kendrick's blog. She is a fantastic woman and writer. And feminist!

  14. I'm so grateful that my parents taught me to pitch a tent, mow the lawn, and work with tools as well as cook, sew, and have good manners- and taught my brothers all the same things. They did this BECAUSE they believe in gender roles- because they believed (rightly, I think), that these skills are as useful to men as they are to women. Of course there are God-given gender differences, but I think we should celebrate them rather than allow them to polarize us. My model for ideal womanhood comes from Proverbs 31:10-31. The writer praises the representative woman for her kindness and generosity, yes, but also for her manual labor, ambition, wise independent
    judgement, and skill as an employer. I don' t consider myself a feminist either. And as for the pants issue, I love a dress and heels as much as the next gal, but who says women can' t wear pants to church already? There are several older ladies in my ward who do just that, and no one looks at them as though they were out of place!

  15. I've gotta agree with you Bonnie. I love working. I love being able to support myself - financially, emotionally, and physically. But at the same time, I love when my boyfriend opens the door for me. Or when he takes out the garbage. And I enjoy cooking dinner, and making our little apartment feel like a home.

    In my opinion, a women can do anything a man can do, and visa verse. I think most of us are predisposition to assume certain roles though, either by nature or nurture. But that doesn't mean everyone is the same way. And people shouldn't assume that.

    However, I would never consider myself a "feminist". I am a women in business. I work just as hard as every one of my male counterparts. I take responsibility for my actions and make sure my opinions are heard. But I don't feel the need to be all "I am woman, hear me rawrrrrr". I think that pointing out the differences that essentially you want people to forget about is counter productive. I think once people learn to see past the differences, then we will see progress. It's like with other minority communities, they want to have special groups like in college (Black Student Union, Hispanic Men United, etc.), but then complain that people treat them differently. Well, duh, you're pointing out the fact that you're different!

    To me, you have to earn my respect. Whether you're a man, woman, black, white, or purple. Work hard, and I respect you. Simple.

    Ok, let me get off my soap box now. Haha. Thanks for posting something that actually produces thought-provoking conversations ;)

  16. Love this post! I think as women we almost make each other pick sides which is kind of sad. In my little humble opinion I feel that each women has to define what being a women is to them. When God blessed our family and I was able to stay home when our 3rd child was born I was sad that during my excitement some women looked down on me like I was letting women down everywhere. Or when I get that "oh you stay at home" like I do nothing but read trashy magazines and blog. (okay...I do blog. :) ) I think the problem is that when the "feminist movement" started it was wonderful. It gave women rights and we weren't seen as objects...yet I do feel there is a group of women out there that has taken it too far and almost hurt the thought of being a "feminist" we are angry man hating women dressed in camo and carry spray paint with us ready to defile walls and overpasses!! :)

    Like my daughter says "what evs" :)


  17. Anonymous7:54 AM

    I always say I am not a feminist and can't stand feminism. I say that, though, with a certain idea/opinion in mind. Yes, women USED to be considered unequal to men in many ridiculous ways. I confidently feel that those ways have been changed. Women can vote, women work full time, women are paid just as much as men, etc. When I comment AGAINST feminism, it is when I see women who can find ANYTHING to complain about. For example, I see women whining about using their bodies as they please (c'mon- abortion has NOTHING to do with a woman's BODY, it has to do with the body of ANOTHER human-obviously only my opinon), unequal pay, gender roles, etc. and these things just don't exist. Many women are just insatiable. I mean, it is a 100% fact that, by nature, women, in general, are physically weaker, are more nuturing etc. That isn't always going to be the case, and each family can decide for themselves who wants to take which roles and I don't think anyone would have a problem with that and if they did- who cares? Not their business. But women want to be "equal" in the military, and then are not held to same the same Physical Test standards as the men, as another example. So in that situation none of the women complain about being treated "equally."

    Well, this comment kind of jumped around everywhere because there is a lot that goes into it. But I guess my point is that fair is not always equal. Are there gender roles? Yes. Women typically like pink and "cute" things. They can cook, and sew, etc. I freaking hate pink and cute things, I can't cook or sew, and I am the least girly person ever. My husband can do all of those things that I cannot. But still, I know that I don't have to cook and sew if I don't want to and what does that matter to anyone else? As a matter of fact, I work full time and always plan to, regardless of what my husband does. And the men at my job get paid the exact same salary as women at the same level. Do some men still consider women as unequal? Sure. And some people are still racist or prejudice.
    I guess my point is that the war on women is over and women need to make sure they aren't just being dramatic.

    Oh yes, and like some of the other women who commented, I am surprised about the wearing pants to church thing. I don't think that is a "feminist" issue, but an issue of a particular religion. Women CAN wear pants to church, because I do (and sometimes jeans!) because what matters is that you are there, but if your religion doesn't believe that way, and it is probably tradition.
    Furthermore, I think for leadership positions, all people should be considered, and if the most qualified is a man, so be it. Men, traditionally, do go for leadership positions. I'm not really commenting about your particular place of employment because I obviously know nothing about it, but speaking in general, if leadership positions are represented mostly by men, then maybe that is who was most qualified at the time. I don't think exceptions should be made for anyone regardless of gender, race, family members, etc. when applying for positions. 100% of the time it should be whomever is the most qualified. I don't think women are purposely not chosen most of the time, but I guess that does exist in some places. You just never know.

  18. RE: pants issue

    If you're part of a congregation that genuinely does not care what women wear to church as long as they are dressed respectfully, then rock on. In your case, you will see a group of women wearing pants to church in protest as pretty stupid.

    Normally I have to say this to men, but to these women: check your privilege.

    I've read some articles on these Mormon feminists and the reasons behind this "wear pants to church" thing. In their congregations, they face considerable social pressure NOT to wear pants, only to wear dresses/skirts. This is an outdated and sexist cultural imposition on women, and they are completely right to protest it.

    To whomever said church isn't the right place to be political, I'd like to see this comment from one of the organizers: "[The Mormons] my people. And so are feminists. It's confusing to reconcile being a feminist in a patriarchal church, but we are trying to fight for it and make it better."

    I was raised in a conservative, southern, Presbyterian denomination. We have no formal rules against women wearing pants to church, but when my family moved back to the South and started attending this church (my dad's family's church), only the very old women wore pants. Our first winter there, my mom got ready for church one day, in pants. My dad was surprised. "But women don't wear pants to church," he said, oh so naively. My mom wore them anyway.

    Within a few years, women wore pants to church as freely as they wore skirts and dresses. One feminist Christian made all the difference.

    No one is saying it's wrong to wear skirts or dresses or pretty things. What's wrong is not letting women CHOOSE what they want to wear.

  19. Anonymous8:03 AM

    I just wish there wasn't such controversy about women! Equality should be across the board...we have the freedom to wear a dress OR pants to church, to work full time or not, to stay home and raise babies or not. Equality is about having the option, the choice. That's the most important thing to remember...not all women want the same things. We're different, too. And having the CHOICE is what matters.

  20. Gosh, I love you. You always entertain and make me think at the same time.

  21. Homegirl, You a feminist!

    You should wear what you want to church, you should work if you want to, you should be able to stir the soup and build the fire, as should your brother (cooking is a life skill).

    I'm a believer in sharing responsibility- each person is different and everyone can fashion their own role from his or her personal strengths. You and your husband have figured that out.

    Check out second wave feminism!


  22. I am fine with these women doing this but the fact of the matter is that we (lds) have always been able to wear dress pants or whatever else we consider our Sunday best. The church never said wear a dress or a skirt. If you feel like others are judging you for not wearing a skirt or a dress then the one who judges will have to deal with it. Stop caring what the judgement people think and just wear your best. Outside of Utah this really isn't even an issue, people wear whatever and no one cares.

  23. You might also want to post the direct quote that the church put out about wearing your best and not making and other clarifications on what your best is so that others who read your blog can know! I love your blog my favorite!

  24. My Mom and Sister are both Mormons and I saw a post on her Fb page the other day about committing to wearing a dress to church on Sunday, but I didn't pay much attention to it.

    I have to say that I think the point should be that women can wear what they *want* whether it is pants or a skirt - a woman doesn't HAVE to wear a skirt to feel pretty, dressed up or feminine. I guess in simpler terms it is: Wearing a skirt does not equal being a woman. THAT misconception is what needs to change if we truly do want to be valued for what we bring to our roles in society.

  25. I have no brothers, so we were the ones chopping wood or doing all the "Boy" stuff growing up. I think that helped a lot to make me handy with things, so I want to make sure our daughter does all kinds of chores! Though now that I have a husband, he does the man stuff ;)

  26. I started writing a post about this too! haha

  27. It seems like there is some confusion. There is not a rule that you have to wear a skirt or a dress. The church only says wear your Sunday best. Whatever that may be. If you are at your best in a pair of pants, then wear them. Most people don't care. If someone cares then they probably aren't worth you worrying about their opinion anyway. But protesting as if it was the church's fault is ridiculous. Besides protesting against the church is not the right way to handle things in our church. If you are having a problem speak to your Bishop, Stake President, or write a letter. There is no need to create this big drama. And further more not everyone wants to wear pants to church. I love getting dressed up in a cute skirt or dress.

  28. Bonnie, I love this post. I identify as a feminist, and the beautiful thing about feminism is that my brand of feminism may not be yours...and that's totally okay. The underlying principle is CHOICE, ya see? And from what I gather, you believe in a woman's right to choices about these things. Wearing skirts and feeling feminine, gender roles, enjoying work outside the get to make choices about all of these things, and believing you have a right to these choices...that makes you a feminist! It makes me sad that "feminism" is seen as a dirty word these days - all we want is just what we deserve - the right to make our own decisions about things, and to not be looked down upon for said decisions :)

  29. I stumbled upon your blog and I can't stop reading all your posts. Love it!

    You have a new follower! ;)

  30. I know I'm a few days behind on the comments, and maybe I will just say something that has already been said many times, but here are my thoughts:

    I am a feminist. And I am a Mormon. And I am a stay-at-home mom.

    I think that in the Mormon church, there is not necessarily inequality of the sexes, but there is definitely difference. The Church does not say women must wear dresses or skirts, but there is pressure in the Utah Mormon culture to do so. It is what everyone expects. And people are uncomfortable with unexpected and different things.

    A woman wore pants to my ward on Sunday. I wouldn't have even noticed except she was new, so she stood up to introduce herself in Relief Society meeting. I have no problem with women wearing pants to church. She still looked nice and respectful. But the ladies around me started making little comments like "do you think she's wearing pants because she's a feminist?" or "I think that's just stupid." So ultimately, it was not the pants that were distracting, but everyone's whispered comments about the pants.

    I think that people who think there is no inequality of the sexes in this country are a bit naive. I think most of the inequality comes from our cultural and social context. I am a stay-at-home mom, not entirely by choice, but because my husband has greater earning power than I do, despite the fact that we both have Bachelor's Degrees. So he works because he can better support us and I don't work because I cannot make enough money to pay for daycare for my kids. Perhaps this difference in earning power can be attributed to our chosen fields (I majored in English, he in Graphic Design), but the only reason I majored in English is because I had the thought ingrained in me that I did not want to work, but wanted to stay at home with my kids... even though I have always been really uncomfortable around kids. Doesn't really make sense, does it? But I feel like the culture I was raised in expected a girl to want to be a mom, so I tried to do what I felt was expected.

    I am not a natural nurturer, but I think that nurturing is a learned behavior. Since I had my kids, I have become so much more comfortable around kids in general. And I don't like most other people's kids, but I am a good mom to my kids and a decent babysitter if I have to be.

    I really think that "feminism" has such a negative connotation in our culture, but I consider myself a feminist because I recognize the differences, the inequalities, the enabling behavior, etc. that other people don't. Women are just as capable, intelligent, and motivated as men, but every person is different and every person should be aware of the motivations behind their choices, then choose to do what is best for them and their family. And women should not be labeled in a negative way for wearing pants to church or cutting their hair really short or not wanting to have children, etc... especially not by other women.

  31. Anonymous4:59 PM

    So. There are two daughters in my family. Me (24) and my sister (21). I ended up taking on all of the more feminine rolls, and my sister ended up taking on more of the masculine rolls. Maybe it's because she played sports and actually thinks like an engineer, whereas I blog and think like an engineer in color? Who knows. I think I mowed the lawn once. I think I've seen her clean a bathroom once.

    It's just sort of what happened.

    No idea where any of this falls on the feminism spectrum.

  32. I love this post. Thank you for being so honest about your opinions. I feel EXACTLY the same way about wanting to be treated like a man and treated like a woman. I'll figure it out one day!

  33. I loved this post! I have a lot of the same opinions, but you put them much more eloquently than I could. I like to think of myself as a feminist, but sometimes I hesitate to label myself as one because I don't agree with most of the beliefs of those who call themselves "feminists"... especially the LDS ones. I don't feel slighted or less important because I don't hold the priesthood or wear pants to church. However, I did always feel jealous of the darn boy scouts who got to go canoeing and rock climbing while we have makeover night for mutual. ;)