It wasn’t that long ago I sat next to someone in a JRCLS meeting who was promoting the cause of young women being encouraged to do what they wanted to do, be it go to law school, have children or anything else, in a world of financial equality. I suggested that she might want to go to a FMH bloggersnacker and she said “but I’m not a feminist.” It puzzled me, but then I realized, that in many contexts, she was right.
Not, mind you, as I see feminism, but she is right as it may be said that some feminists define feminism.
In thinking about that, I am also taking the opportunity to go over definitions (with reference quotes) and then discuss each.
For some people, claiming to be feminists is a source of social superiority. e.g.
The woman I sat next to is not looking to be fashionable, and is not engaged in what she is doing to be fashionable. As a result, she claims not to be a feminist.
For some people, feminism is a struggle to take power.
I grew up in New York City in the 1980s, attending an all-girls private school for twelve years, and in that environment “feminism” meant one thing: acting upon political, social, and economic powers on behalf of the sameness of men and women, or, as Kathryn Soper describes in her article, the “first” or “old” vision of equality. On this point, I wish Soper had been more forceful: feminism is more than a conversation; it is a struggle for power.
The woman I sat next to is seeking to empower others, but not to struggle for power herself and definitely not seeking to impose sameness on anyone, but rather to assert the right women have to choose to be different from each other, as they need or see fit.
In fact, the following quote captures her feelings on choice (vs. sameness):
Feminism is in direct conflict with the Church
(Note that quote is not in context, but it captures a feeling many have).
The woman I sat next to was not in conflict with the Church.
Feminism is a far cry from Zion
Even ardent feminists among us can’t deny that a feminist utopia — meaning the gender-blind society idealized by liberal feminists, or the gynocentric society idealized by radicals — is a far cry from Zion,
The woman I sat next to I would say earnestly seeks Zion.
Feminism means compromise.
“the issue of primacy is unavoidable for those who are Mormon and feminist. Despite the overlap between the two belief systems, points of conflict make it necessary at times to compromise the values of one for the other.”
The woman I sat next to did not want to compromise at all.
Feminism means baking brownies instead of plowing snow.
As I was sitting in my room, reading TV Tropes and waiting for the from-scratch Cheesecake Peppermint Bark Brownies that I made to cool, Dad called for me to go plow some snow. Earlier, Mom had told me to make brownies while the other kids got rid of the snow. I’m okay with that. I like baking and I hate being cold and wet. This had nothing to do with gender.
The woman I sat next to was not coming up with reasons not to do work she did not like.
Of course, by now, you’ve hit the fascinating point. Just as all of those definitions of feminism are not necessary or universal or complete or compelling, so are definitions of Mormonism that people use to claim one can not be Christian and Mormon at the same time.
So, feminists don’t need to seek to claim that they are bearing a mark of superiority by claiming feminism (and Mormons don’t need to be claiming that they are the elect just because they are LDS); feminists are not necessarily engaged in a struggle to take power (and Mormons are not claiming power by being LDS); feminism is not in conflict with the Church — the two should be the same (and Mormonism is not in conflict with Christianity); feminism is part of the path to Zion, not a far cry from Zion (and the Church is a precursor to Zion); feminism does not mean compromising values, it can very well mean expressing them (the same for the Church); and feminism is not an excuse.
Interesting how the Church and Feminism have so many points in common, once you think about it.