Oct 9, 2008

What is feminism?

When I hear the word, "feminist," images come to mind of bra-burning, hillary clinton, a black-and-white picture of women marching with pickets, scenes from "stepford wives", Sheri L. Dew, Carol Lynn Pearson, Emmeline Wells, and a florid radio commentator spouting blustering rhetoric. You get the picture. Very conflicted.

The other day I met with a group of friends; other homeschooling moms, and one of them asked me, "Are you really a feminist, or are you just teasing us?"

I guess I have a hard time with the idea that feminism means femi-naziism, pro-abortionism, anti-stay-at-home-momism. To me, I have developed a view of my own views as feminist, because I have a passion for womens' issues. I feel so very strongly that women are Satan's primary focus of attack in our society right now, and we need to educate our girls so that they can become strong, self-assured, whole people who don't devalue themselves by thinking of child-rearing as demeaning and limiting, who don't think that they have to be a size two to be beautiful.

I'd like my daughters to grow up to become women who think of strength and health and vitality as their goal for their physical appearance. I'd like women in the church to see themselves as the supreme force for good, for motivating things like welfare and missionary work and strong families. I'd like women all over the world to realize that educating girls and women has an astronomically further reach (statistics show that children with educated mothers are healthier, more likely to do better in life, and that the families tend to stay together more.) And that limiting education to boys and men actually has a detrimental effect on society.

Women are so powerful. They have such a potential for influence in the world. Being a mother is not limiting or demeaning, it is the ultimate creative act: you are creating a person, helping them to create their worldviews, their values, their emotional stability and perceptions. The emotional climate of a home is far more influential that the physical climate of the geographical area in which a family lives; thus, motherhood is even more powerful than nature.

And even if your lot in this life is not to be a mother, women are intrinsicly capable of that kind of creativity, of that kind of influence for good in the world, the ability to nurture and teach and help those around us. Not just children, but anyone within our sphere of influence. Heavenly Father created us with those talents and capabilities.

This is why I consider myself a feminist. Women's issues are fascinating and vital to the well-being of the entire human race.

The idea that feminism is wrong, to me is offensive and sad. Let's not limit ourselves, ladies and gentlemen. Let's not let people like Rush Limbaugh tell us what we believe.


A Girl Called Dallan said...

So well said! I'm with you on everything you believe.

Semantics are so tricky. I wish there was another word besides feminism, since Rush Limbaugh has ruined that one.

Let's get one going. Any ideas?

merrilykaroly said...

I think it's hard to find a word for what you are describing. I don't know if I would call it feminism. I would maybe call it "appreciating the divine role of the woman." Because "feminism" (whatever Limbaugh has said about it; I have to admit that I don't know what he has said) has so many connotations in today's society, as you showed.

Beautiful description of what a woman can accomplish.

NoSurfGirl said...

a lot of people have the conception of feminism as advocating leaving kids with childcare, allowing abortion, etc. This is a misconception, in my humble opinion.

Here: The merriam-webster definition of feminsim:

One entry found.

Main Entry:
fem·i·nism Listen to the pronunciation of feminism

1 : the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes 2 : organized activity on behalf of women's rights and interests
— fem·i·nist Listen to the pronunciation of feminist \-nist\ noun or adjective
— fem·i·nis·tic Listen to the pronunciation of feministic \ˌfe-mə-ˈnis-tik\ adjective

Stand tall, feminists! Accept yourselves for what you are. Rush can go to... well. He can go jump in a lake or something.

Sherpa said...

Why would we make up a new word? To paraphrase Bono, "Charles Manson stole this song(word) from the Beatles, and we're stealing it back!!

This is a pet issue of mine. i've called myself a feminist, very mindful of the right's intentional sabotage of a very real issue.

NoSurfGirl said...

Thanks, Sherpa. I think that's kind of what i'm trying to say... let's take it back.

michele said...

Yeah, I'm so glad you posted this!! I whole-heartedly agree with all of it.

Women ARE so powerful, and full of strength.

You mentioned that you would like women in the church to see themselves as the supreme force for good. How do you think the men feel about that? I think some of the men believe it, but many act like they don't. Maybe the belief needs to start with women and go from there, I don't know.

michele said...

P.S. I'm going to post a link to this on my blog... I hope that's ok!

KingOfTexas said...

There used to be a show on TV called “Jonnie Loves Chachi” which will never be shown in Korea. Chachi is Korean slang for the male anatomy. I’m a Gay, Nazi, feminist. When you here this you automatically think of a homosexual, cross burning, Jew hating, pro abortion bra burner. Like a lot of words they have taken on assigned meanings from society. They no longer mean you are happy, nationalist socialist women’s issue oriented German person. Calling someone the “N” word will probably get you a beating even if you try to tell them it is Latin for black.
I guess I just took the long way of saying don’t tell someone you friend is gay if they are happy no matter what you say the word means. It's what everyone else thinks the word means.

NoSurfGirl said...


I feel you, I feel you. But IMO, there are some words we should not give up on. For instance, if someone started using the word "Mormon" as an epithet of some kind, or the word "Blond" (oh wait..) I'd bite back. I'd fight for people not to slander causes that are near and dear to my heart.

But I feel you.

Janell said...

To your post, Amen.

I'm tired of women (mostly Mormons, but I'm also working with a predominately Mormon sample) who equate feminism with the far-right extremes of feminism. The truth lies somewhere between "women have the right to choose anything they well please without accepting the consequences" and "women must be a happy, barefoot 'homemaker.'" You did an excellent job in more properly defining feminism.

Janell said...

Or is that left? I have a hard enough time keeping track of my own left and right sides without worrying about which represents which side of politics.

NoSurfGirl said...


Also to answer what you asked, I think I'm not sure. I personally have never closely associated with a man who has shown patronizing or devaluing attitudes towards womens' roles in the church. But that might just be because they sense I'd kick their butts. (See, there's the bra burning feminist in me.)

Actually, no wait. I think I've met one... maybe. But I also know it's out there... I've heard some stories. How about you?

David L said...

There is certainly a problem with the word feminist; at least there is a problem with the perception. And the problem is the same that we see with words such as liberal or conservative. I think it goes back quite well to skywalker's recent post about labels in political arguments.

While I would not consider myself a feminist, I do consider myself a supporter of women and womens' rights. Does that make me a feminist? Certainly by the original definition of the term, yes. Certainly by today's impression (that is distinctly different than definition) no, it does not, and if someone described me as so, I would protest. It makes me no more a feminist by the current impression than voting for McCain or Obama would make me a republican or a democrat.

Aside from this note, I would encourage the women here (and the men who missed it) to go and read Elder Richard G. Scott's talk from the most recent Priesthood Session of Conference. Elder Scott gave a wonderful address where he distinctly tied honoring the priesthood to respecting and supporting the women in our lives. I was personally touched by the clarity and truth of his message, and I hope that others were too.

I think the single highest praise ever given to a man was made by Marjorie Hinckley when she stated that her husband had always given her wings to fly. And it is a goal that, feminist or not, all men should strive for.

Nothing is more beautiful or stronger than a woman who understands her potential as a mother, a person, and a united head of a home and then lives her life to the fullest.

Fred said...

The post is great, and the comments even more interesting.

Rush Limbaugh. I wish he'd just go away.

Jayne said...

Loved your post. As an older "sister," I was around in the 70's (as a teen and young adult), so I well remember the hooplah that surrounded the feminist movement. I'm calling it that because that was how it was referred to at that time.

I think every woman has to carve out an identify that's right for her. For some, it's to be a stay-at-home mother who is raising righteous children. Others might want to concentrate on education and career. The point I'm feebly trying to make is that we have the choice. Our church (as far as I know) has never put women in a lesser position and forced them to stay at home barefoot,pregnant, and in the kitchen. The emphasis is on family, and yet there is no one size fits all way for all of us to be women.

By the way, when I read about RS presidents, I'm awed at the tremendous amount of WORK they did for mankind...er, humankind. For instance, wasn't it Belle Spafford who was involved in the National Association of Women for quite a while? I think she might have even been president once.

NoSurfGirl said...

Fred: I realize that sometimes I post as if everyone who reads this blog knows exactly where I'm coming from. I just looked at this post and the comments again and had to laugh at how it must sound to someone outside of the very narrow culture from which this particular conversation originated. It's so interesting, isn't it.


I love those thoughts and reflections. Feminism is such a loaded word... but one near and dear to my heart, for some of the causes and education that the feminist movement has supported and garnered. Like any "worldly" organization it spawns both good and bad, righteous and unrighteous.. like any political party, any ideology.

Yup, I'm working to carve out my place. Mostly, I think I'm working to figure out who exactly I am? And what I want to do with my life? And here I am, more than a quarter of the way through it. I look at you and your accomplishments and hope to Gosh that I'll be able to be as self-assured and have as much of my goals under my belt as you have.

merrilykaroly said...

So I agree, Nosurf, that we shouldn't let someone else redefine what "feminism" should mean. However, it's not only because of how the far right stereotypes it (of course, I like to think of myself as a very conservative person, so I guess I'm a little biased); I think it's also because there have definitely been some feminists out there who have made feminism look like something bad. Would you agree with that?

I think that you defining yourself as a "feminist" gives you a chance to explain yourself, just like you did with your friends. Thus, you are doing a lot to reclaim the word and spread awareness of what it really should be.

Nathan and Rebecca Scott said...

I really like your comments, especially on creating and creativity. They remind me a lot of some of the things President Uchtdorf said in his address during Women's Conference.

NoSurfGirl said...

I have to say that yes, there have been some who have been more virulent, more strident, more angry.

I actually sympathise with those women, though I don't agree with them. Women are inherrently vulnerable in the society that has, for so long, been formulated by the male, white, land-owning sectors. It's not only feminists who are angry, it's minorities, the lower class... pretty much every segment of society that has been marginalized at one time or another. In fact, Mormons have a pretty big chip on their shoulders sometimes, too. Yes, there are women who have made feminsism seem more femi-nazi-ish. I don't agree with them... but I'm going to go ahead and still call myself a feminist. You're right... it does start conversations. Good ones. Because I'm not an angry feminist, a lot of people don't feel threatened talking to me about why I'm a feminist. In fact, that conversation with the homeschooling moms ended on a really positive note.

I appreciate everyone participating in this particular conversation, too... as Fred said, it's very interesting, examining people's why's and what they think a certain word or label means to them.

NoSurfGirl said...

Rebecca, I feel hugely complimented. I didn't even think of that! In a way, that's why I loved Uchdorf's talk so much... I've felt that way for a long time about creativity and talents, and that "performance" is not the purpose of a talent. It's creation, or creativity. Creating something wonderful, something that holds the spirit in its heart.