Monday, January 26, 2009

Feminism, Mormonism and Optimism

When did I become so closed-minded?

Or, rather, when did I cross the aisle and begin to fight for the enemy?

When I was a university student I was all about sexual equality. I could do anything a man could do and do it better, even (sing with me now folks "anything you can do, I can do better!"). I planned to not only have a kick-butt career but to kick feminine stereotypes too.

Oh, I thought I *might* one day have a child - but only one, and even then just for the experience of it. Just to say "I did it" and then because I was a modern feminist woman, right? I can do it all. I can have it all.

I had some issues with the whole men-only priesthood thing when the missionaries first introduced me to the Church. How could I really belong to a church that wouldn't allow women to be leaders? To be spiritual leaders? I was just as spiritual as any man, any day. Maybe even more so.

And I was supposed to just be a mother?

Uh, I think not.

But then, I had a change of heart.

A spiritual experience that rocked my world and changed the way I saw myself. Just like that. Like lightning from a cloudless sky my perception of my role, of who I was, of who I was to become, shifted

Yesterday I was called as to be a Den Leader for the Cub Scouts. I was so, darn happy to get this calling. I had envisioned any number of callings I might receive all of which I was less-than-thrilled about. However, I had determined to go in with an open mind and open heart and accept whatever it was I was called to do. 

So when they said Den Leader, I was elated for a number of reasons.
  1. It's a much easier calling than all the ones I'd conjured up in my head in the days leading up to my call.
  2. I get to be with my boys and I kind of like them, so I'm okay with that.
  3. I get to serve with another gal in my ward who I really like.
  4. The time commitment is a lot less demanding than the YW calling I had last.
  5. I don't have to be in charge of anything which is something I had feared a bit.
  6. I like scouting and think it's a great program that my boys are lucky to be able to participate in.
  7. And probably a bunch more reasons that I'm too lazy to think of right now.
When I got home from church late yesterday afternoon, I immediately googled "Den Leader Cub Scouts LDS" in hopes of finding some info on what the calling entailed. The first link that came up was to this blog post at Feminist Mormon Housewives

At the time I read it, there were 113 comments. I only skimmed them, but from what I could see they were all but one responses of people agreeing with the blogger's point of view which was basically that scouting within the Church was a bad idea and they hated the calling. 

Since then I haven't been able to get that blog out of my mind. I've been stewing on it, rolling it over in my head, and generally noodling on the whole idea of feminist Mormon housewives. 

The original housewife herself said the name was an oxymoron and she like it that way. Her intent in beginning the blog was to provide an outlet for other women like herself to be Mormon, a housewife, while also being liberal and self-proclaimed feminist.

See now, this is where I realize that I am not the girl I once was. I used to call myself feminist. Now it tastes like a bad word in my mouth.

From a girl who ridiculed motherhood and valued it for naught, I have become a woman who embraces it with my whole heart. I no longer have any qualms at all at being a mother rather than a priesthood holder. I don't know that these Housewives do either, I'm just sayin'.

For me, and this is where my judgemental self is going to peek out of her closet for a second, I would say that I think women who still call themselves feminist are not fully converted to the gospel of Jesus Christ. 

Ok, I need to qualify that. A feminist is simply one who considers herself, as a woman, equal to any man. And I think any LDS woman can get behind that. We know we are created equal. However, I think feminism has come to mean a whole 'nother thing. And honestly to read the various blog entries of the women at Feminist Mormon Housewives, I think they belong more to that other camp, the one I used to be a member of too, before I, well, saw the light.

When I commented on that den leader post about how I was looking forward to my new calling and I felt sad that this woman was serving in a calling she hated, one of the bloggers on the site called me 'holier than thou'. If having a little optimism, seeing hope in a new situation and hoping all that I work with are expecting the best for themselves too, is 'holier than thou' than I don't know how to be a latter day saint, I guess.

Isn't that what we're supposed to do? Move forward in faith? Expect the best, from ourselves and others around us? This experience has taught me a sad lesson: that not everyone out there is happy doing what they are doing in the church. I thought, perhaps naively, that most people serve willingly and happily in the church. Oh sure, I've had callings that have worn me out, that I haven't been able to get the hang of and that I hope never to have again. But if I were called to one of them again? I would accept, and then get right onto my knees.

Now, if that makes me holier than you, I'm not sure what to say.

For me, it just means that I know better than to think I can do anything in this big, bad world without the help of my Father in Heaven. I am just learning and stumbling and fumbling my way through and hoping for the best . . . always hoping for the best.

I am still a feminist, and personally, I think I got the better deal, this whole motherhood thing versus the priesthood. Who wouldn't curl their toes in happiness in response to their children's shouts of sheer joy at the prospect of spending more time with you? 

I am a Mormon, and it has changed me profoundly. I am so much better for it.

And, I am an optimist. 

Call me crazy, kooky or stuck up, but happiness is where you find it . . . and that my friends, if wherever you choose to look for it.