Friday, March 21, 2014

Mad Thoughts on Feminism and Mormonism

Maybe it's because I've recently decided to form political opinions for myself and be a little more educated on different viewpoints out there, or maybe it's just because I'm older and more exposed to it. Either way, I've seen a lot of stuff out there lately in regards to feminism and Mormonism, and I have some thoughts about it. (you can see my previous thoughts on feminism here.) I debated whether or not to voice my opinions on the internet because who really wants to listen to an 18-year-old girl? I know that anything I say will be criticized. But I've come to the conclusion that you are going to be criticized and mocked no matter what you say, so since there's no way to win, why not share how you feel?

I have been raised in the LDS (Mormon) church my whole life, and I have no plans to stop being Mormon. I love my faith and how it affects my life. For the purposes of this post and for those who may not know a lot about Mormons, we believe in the traditional family structure of a man and woman, lawfully wedded as husband and wife, having and raising children together. In most cases, the father's role is the provider and the mother's role is the caretaker. We are taught to remain abstinent until marriage and to remain loyal to our spouse after marriage. From a young age we are taught to respect our bodies as temples (aka no tattoos or piercings (besides single ear piercings for girls) and no drugs, alcohol, etc) and to keep certain standards of modesty. For girls, that means that we are encouraged to wear skirts and shorts that reach the knees and to cover our shoulders, our backs, and our chest. For boys, that means keeping clean cut hair and avoiding extremes in clothing.

Now for my thoughts. I've seen a lot of stuff out there about how Mormon standards of modesty are degrading and try to make women feel ashamed of their sexuality. Call me crazy, but I don't see it like that. To me, these standards of modesty have taught me to respect myself as a woman, to appreciate the beautiful body I've been given and to live up to my potential. By keeping myself covered, I have increased feelings of self-worth and self-respect, because I have learned that what is important about me is not the size of my chest or my waist or my thighs. I don't need to show off my body because there is so much more to me than that. I have hands to build with. To play music and write poetry and bake mint chocolate chip cookies with. I have a mind capable of creation and intelligence. My heart has deep capacities to love those around me and to feel strongly about things. I have been given interests and passions to fuel me and to help me make a difference in the world. When I am capable of all that, when I have all of that to make me me, why should I feel the need to flaunt my body to get the attention of those around me? If I felt the need to dress in a way to show off my body and to accentuate my physical features, I would lose a lot of respect for myself. Mind you, I do want to feel pretty. I enjoy getting dressed up and will be the first to admit that yes, when I wear a particularly flattering outfit I feel more confident. I wear makeup and put forth effort in getting ready each day because I enjoy looking nice and presentable. Do I think that the way I dress defines me as a person? To an extent, sure. I think that by covering myself I show that I respect myself and those around me. I value the beauty of ideas and creativity rather than physical traits. Do I think that modesty restricts me and is meant to hold me back or teach me that gender and sexuality is bad? Absolutely not. I don't think that the standards that the Church has set and that I have accepted are there to make me feel ashamed of my gender or embarrassed by my sexuality. I think they are there to remind me of my divine worth and potential as a daughter of God and not just as a sexual object.

Another thing I have seen a lot of people criticizing is the Mormon focus on women as mothers. I will be the first to tell you that I want to be a stay at home mom. Does that mean I don't have career aspirations of some kind? Absolutely not. I will also be the first to tell you that I have dreams of being a New York City writer, of traveling the world and being involved in my community. However, family comes first for me. If I am able to work and pursue those goals, great! Fantastic! But if I have to sacrifice the opportunity to raise my children in order to pursue a career, to me, it's not worth it. People claim that the Mormon church discourages women from pursuing careers. I think Gordon B. Hinckley, a past prophet of the Church, phrased it wonderfully. He said, "Find purpose in your life. Choose the things you would like to do, and educate yourselves to be effective in their pursuit. For most it is very difficult to settle on a vocation. You are hopeful that you will marry and that all will be taken care of. In this day and time, a girl needs an education. She needs the means and skills by which to earn a living should she find herself in a situation where it becomes necessary to do so. Study your options. Pray to the Lord earnestly for direction. Then pursue your course with resolution."

I titled this post Mad thoughts because a) this blog is Sincerely, mad, and b) I am, in a sense, considered mad for my beliefs. I am conservative, which is odd for a teenager. When issues on things like feminism come up among my peers, I am often argued at and criticized. Sometimes I feel like a bad person for believing the way I do. I hear phrases like "that's their choice" and "they have the right to do that" and "why would you deny that person those rights?" all the time. But I have the right to believe the way I do, so why am I expected to accept everyone when people can't accept me and my beliefs? Call me a hippie, but can't we all just agree to disagree?

Sincerely, mad

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