Tuesday, 15 February 2011

I am, It Turns Out.

This post is a response to THIS.

I am an LDS woman. 

To many people out in the World this could mean a whole host of things. To me it is very simple; 

I'm a mother, 
a wife 
and I am a feminist.

For many years I fought with my conscience on the "feminist" title. A lot of people I met defined feminism in very small and pigeon holed terms; bra-burning lesbians who want to stick a stiletto into a man's crotch and this didn't do anything to satisfy my curiosity.

My high school career was short lived (by four years) and I didn't really learn anything new. I never learned about the suffragettes, that women were campaigning for the right to a vote and dying for the cause. I knew it had happened somewhere in history but the fully story was hazy at best. My basic understanding was that women had once not been allowed to vote and now they were and that we should be grateful they were and that was that.

Gradually over time I collected little bits of information on feminism and on women's history.

I bought a Germaine Greer book when I was 17, nearly 18. From that book I learned a lot about myself, mostly things I already knew but that no one would listen too - or that people would roll their eyes at if they did hear me (because hearing is not listening.) There were also things in that book I didn't agree with; such as abandoning monogamous relationships. 

And just because Germaine Greer said so, didn't make it so. She did not have the monopoly on feminism (and nor am I implying she ever had it or wanted to have it.) There were rules I could make up for myself. 

I had worried for a long time that I couldn't be both feminist and LDS (or Mormon.) I worried that being a feminist went against everything I had ever known spiritually. I am not an ignorant spirit and I have always been hungry for knowledge so when I learned more and more about feminism it made me really angry. At who I'm not sure; was it at the people sitting behind desks deciding that it was okay to show a man stepping on a woman's head in an attempt to advertise rugs? The men in government all those years ago who decided it was okay that women shouldn't have a right to whose in power? Either way, something was wrong with this.

Sure, maybe it was "all in the past" but that didn't mean it didn't happen or it should be forgotten about. It also didn't rest easy with me that because of a sexual organ separating one sex from the other that we should be treated differently.

And by "differently" I don't mean that there aren't differences because it is perfectly obvious there are differences; physically, spiritually and even mentally.

But that isn't something I feel I can generalise. Some girls like tractors, some little boys like to play house and dolls. Some little girls love to hand craft things and some little boys like to play in the dirt.

As a child I was considered a "tom boy." At least that's how I classed myself  because luckily my parents didn't have labels for us. We were James, Fiona, Cara and Fraser - and that was that. We were unique in our own ways, but not because we were male or female - because that is a given - and being a "girl" or a "boy" isn't a personality trait, it's a physical fact.

My Dad would talk to me about computers and computer games that were considered "boy games" by everyone else. I took a "boy blue" Thomas The Tank Engine lunch box with me on my first day to school. I also played with Barbies, baby dolls and had a play kitchen. I wanted to be married with children. But so did my younger brother, Fraser, who owned a small vacuum cleaner, loved doing dishes and would show the same interest in playing cars as he did with dolls. 

I applaud my parents for not smothering us with gender ideals and for treating us as people. 

Did my Mum dress us in frilly socks and flowery dresses? Yes. She did. But by the same token I didn't understand the frills or the flowers - they were just nice, not a sign or a constraint of who I was or wasn't. Not an aspiration of who I should be or what was to come.

I realise that yes you can be LDS and a feminist. In my faith we're entitled to an equal partnership in a marriage. We run our churches alongside our men and they alongside their women. We're in harmony with one another. We're constantly working together to make things right, to make things work. We can't have eternal salvation one without the other. 

Maybe not everyone has experienced such a harmonious time as an LDS woman; maybe you've had a bishop, stake president or whoever whose said some shocking things to you. Maybe it happened in the home. Or in a Sunday School lesson. I don't know, but all I can say is: that's not how it's supposed to be.

Should we strive for equality?

Yes. But we shouldn't fight for it the way we are now. Yes, now. Even now after years of women endlessly proving they can do a job just as well as - or even better than - a man and deserve the same rights and privileges and not be judged for the anatomy they are born with.

I think in the current fight for equality we lose who we are as people. We become warriors against each other rather than fighting for that child who used to carry the blue lunch box to school, climb trees, defy norms and always arrive home with grubby hands after playing in the mud.

It's not a man's World. Nor is it a woman's World. It's OUR World.