Friday, June 22, 2012

On the luxury of having too much to chose from

Sigh. More female dilemmas. Nothing new, but a few recent articles have stirred up the debate and continue to make me think.

1% Wives Are Helping Kill Feminism and Make the War on Women Possible, according to this author.

Ouch! I see some pertinent points here, but I'm not sure I agree with her premise that feminism means raw wage equality. I've always seen feminism as giving political and social equality to women but especially valuing femaleness as much as maleness, which to me entails that a woman doesn't have to do exactly the same thing as a man in order to have the same "value" in society. And while she starts off talking specifically about "one percenters", her arguments are really stretched out to include any woman who has a choice. I find her basic assumption scary because it means that, basically, she would love to see all women forced to work full time and earn their own keep.

I agree with this:

"Who can possibly take feminism seriously when it allows everything, as long as women choose it?" 

There has to be some sort of standard: Becoming a porn star is a bad feminist choice. Being a mother who forces her daughter to marry at 14 is a bad feminist choice. I'd say dropping out of high school is a bad feminist choice. And she's right that mothering is not the same thing as salaried work, BUT that doesn't mean it doesn't have value: I believe being a stay-at-home-mom has immense value and it should be viewed by all as a valid--and valuable--life choice.

She has a point about women being financially dependent on men -- it's a dangerous position to be in, and that's why education is still very important, at least having the POSSIBILITY of being able to support yourself should (heaven forbid) anything happen (which has incidentally been taught by prophets). But otherwise, her tone is pretty crappy and I'm sure she's going for controversy here... not everything of value in life is measured in $$ signs. She's like the people who want to prevent Laura Bush from receiving the Alice Award, which honors a woman who has advanced the cause of women: I refuse to let a few individuals define feminism in such a narrow way.

Then there's this article, which is spot-on. It also depresses me, because it is so true. I get incredibly frustrated sometimes that the media industry wants to force me to decide between family and a career -- it's still very much all-or-nothing in journalism, and frankly I'm sick of it. There are no true role-models in the media for me, no woman that's figured it all out. I don't want to give up my prime child-bearing years only to be chewed up and spit out as soon as I get a wrinkle or two.

There's another dilemma in all this, as a Latter-day Saint woman: we absolutely have benefited from women entering the workplace in many, many ways. Family-friendly corporate policies for example (for women AND men), or domestic policy that benefits children and mothers. It is important for women to hear their own viewpoints and opinions expressed in the marketplace of ideas. I think female reporters (and not just single career women, either) are necessary, crucial even, because they will have an eye for certain issues that may not be brought up otherwise. And we can bring qualities like empathy and (as mothers) a common understanding of education/health/family issues.

But that brings up the question: how many LDS women should chose a non-traditional path? It's a hard question to answer, especially when I'm pretty sure EVERYBODY I know is sort of wondering why we don't have kids yet. And yet Jimmer didn't serve a mission. Steve Young played football on Sundays. Valerie Hudson isn't a full-time stay-at-home mom. Mitt Romney spends a lot of time traveling away from his family. And nobody gives them any trouble about it, because these people make valuable contributions and also give a positive image of the Church to the world. (Well, Romney arguably not, since liberals don't like him) The irony is, we sort of need more Mormon women in the workplace and the public eye in order to push back, to change the workplace to fit better into Mormon women's lives, if that's what they want. But doing that takes sacrifices.

So how do you know you're supposed to be a norm-breaker? At what point do you know your contribution will be worth the concessions you might have to make? Who will be the next one to place themselves and their family on the Sacrificial Altar of Progress?

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