Personal Feminism

“There was a time that my angry Feminism got in the way
of my even wanting to dress up and look like a woman.”
-Emma Thompson

Do you ever lie in bed at night, thinking about all the things you want to say, and coming up with clever and creative ways to say them? Clever ways that utterly vanish when the real opportunity to express yourself actually presents? I’ve been doing that a lot lately, and while I want to blame it on the pregnancy and my hormones, I honestly think this problem has plagued me my entire life. I am sooo glib, sharp and precise in my mind, and so often muddled, distracted and unclear in real life. Not fair. So lately I have been thinking about Feminism, and how I really feel about it. Lets hope, since this is on “paper”, my clarity will be somewhere in the middle of my fantasies and my unfortunate, bumbling reality.

The first time anyone asked me if I was a Feminist was at a natural foods store where I worked in Santa Cruz, California. I was 18. She was a co-worker of mine, and I was standing behind the bakery counter, making Chai tea. Somewhat off-guard, I looked up and said that, no, I didn’t consider myself a Feminist. The verbal beating that ensued was shocking; she berated me for my position, belittled my intelligence, and basically concluded that I was repressed and misinformed, and once I loosened the shackles of my bondage, I would see things as she did. How’s that for a start? In a nutshell, this is, even today, my complaint about modern Feminism.

There was time, not too long after this incident, that I would have answered the above question very differently. Perhaps it is a right of passage for many young women- I can and do only speak for myself. There was a period of years where the message of modern Feminism was very bright in my sky, and I subscribed to many of its popular ideals (and magazines and authors). But slowly, as I became more aware of my own heart and found the courage to look at how I really felt deep inside (rather than subscribing to a particular social movement’s cannon), my point of view shifted. And when it shifted, I again found myself maligned and belittled by a movement I thought was there to embrace and empower me to do exactly what I was trying to do- Make up my own mind. Herein lies the problem. Because the opinion I began to form was not in direct line with the party-line ( for lack of a better word), I was again labeled misinformed and repressed. And this made (still makes) me very angry.

Other than the above dichotomy, one my biggest contentions with modern Feminism is the very-pushed idea that men are less than women. Books and magazine actually try and seriously contend with the idea that men might not be necessary (other than for reproduction) at all. I am expected to take this as serious academic discourse? The idea that women are somehow superior to men is not progress- it is running in the same ditch the other direction. Belittling men diminishes us all, and as the mother of sons, I will not abide by it.

Another big bone I have to pick with the Feminists is the bright and shiny banner of “The Right to Choose”. Heads up-This one is very personal to me. Now, the right to choose implies someone actually choosing- having several options and making a well-informed and thoughtful decision. From personal experience, I know how slippery and sketchy this idea is in reality. When I was very young, I made some astoundingly poor choices and ended up pregnant. I want to make it perfectly clear that I am not blaming anyone for my own actions, but I also want to make it clear that vulnerable and frightened young women can be and are taken advantage of under the banner of “choice”. When I went to the doctor- when I went a family member, when I talked to a counselor, what was repeated over and over, was how lucky I was that I lived in this age when woman could have a safe and legal abortion. Repeatedly, I was told how simple and easy “it” was, how empowering this would be- yes, someone actually said that to me. NO one, not one counselor, doctor or friend said to me that I could make a choice other than the one they were offering. I was told that at 8 weeks “it” was not a child, but still just a lump of tissue. That was an outright lie, I now know. I also know that I am not the only frightened and alone young woman who was pushed through something she may not have really wanted in the name of “modern progress” and Feminism. Everyone was so careful to protect my “rights” as a modern woman, no one stopped and looked at the scared girl.

Which leads me to my real question. Is modern Feminism really serving women, real women with real lives, or is it merely serving it’s own agenda? Am I a Feminist? Not on your life. Do I believe that men and women are created equally? You better believe it. Are we the same, able to do all the same things on an equal and level playing field? Nope. We are inherently different, but neither is superior or better than the other- different but equal. My husband and I will never be an equal match in physical strength, nor will he ever be the artist I am. We each compliment and compel the other, amplifying and complimenting and lifting, where I am weak, he is stronger, where he struggles, I lift him up. We are Equal, but we are not, and never will be the Same.

The world is not perfect- I understand that there are women who really do need help. But don’t help and then expect or even demand that those women then fit into a proscribed political or world view. Help with the idea of freeing people to make up their own minds and hearts, even if it doesn’t fit with the very doctrine that freed them. I don’t need the ERA, or Ms Magazine, or Gloria Steinem or Betty Freidan to tell me how or what to think. And I am not interested in riding a pendulum that swings too far to the left or the right- I will stay right here with my own heart, kindly and thoughtfully making quiet decisions for my life. That is feminism to me.

Mom-Fuzz

(Warning: Gross out factor ahead) So I have really long, really curly hair. Most of the time I keep it pinned up in a messy bun-thing or tied back in a pony-tail, but I have a seriously hard time finding hair-clips and elastics that don’t break immediately. I have resorted to making my own “scrunchie” things, because I can fill them with the really big elastic from the fabric store, and then they don’t break.

Anyway, what sounds like it might me pretty is actually a catastrophic mess most days. When I have the time and inclination, I can make it looks nice, like Goldy-Locks curls, 0r I can use an iron on it and make is shiny and sleek. The problem is, with either option, as soon as I walk outside, or in the bathroom, or in the kitchen if the dishwasher is on, the humidity makes it puff up like a bushel-sized fuzz ball. So generally, I don’t bother.

It also has a life of it’s own. After finding a long golden hair wound tightly around, er, somewhere south, my husband swears that my loose hairs crawl around the house at night. He has even accused me of putting them places as a joke, which I swear I have never done. My kids have now hopped on dad’s bandwagon, and bring me things that have “Mom-Fuzz” on them, things that have no reason to have any contact with my hair; tinker-toys, Eric’s binkies, toothbrushes, zippers, and assorted other toys. There is no way for me to claim they are not mine- the boys are shorn redheads, and DFM shaves his head bald…Hmmm “Not Mine!” doesn’t fly.

Now, any fuzz of any kind is “Mom-Fuzz”. The baby shows me some lint from the dryer, claiming it is mom-fuzz, there is a stray feather from down pillow, and it is mom-fuzz, anything and everything is mom-fuzz. It’s starting to gross me out, and I am thinking about cutting it all off. If I wouldn’t look like a shorn poodle, I really would. But when it’s short, it kinks up like a big brillo-pad, and even I have a little vanity left.

The PLAN

Glad it’s over? Oh, man, I sure am. My husband’s family has some very nice people in it, but they are not people who like to be together. It is one of those awkward families that only gets together on holidays. Several members actually showed up after the food was on the table, sat down, ate, then left. There was no socializing, visiting or camaraderie. There was a stressed out aunt in the kitchen, running herself absolutely ragged, tension galore, and uncomfortable silences. Not what I’m used to.

After getting all the kids settled at their table, I went to sit down and join the adults, and there had been three seats left at the table, and my lovely mother-in-law sat next to my husband, leaving me to take the only other empty chair, down the table from him. It was not the time to make a scene, but I pointedly looked at the prospects, turned around, and sat at the kids’ table.

For all the little complaints and trials I have with my mother, they are minor when I look at the big picture. My family is very close, we hang out and talk to each other all the time, not just on holidays, so when we are together for a celebration, it is really fun, loud and enjoyable. It is rare that more than a few days go by without talking to both of my brothers, and I talk to my mom every day, really. So yesterday, when I talked to my mom (for the third time), I told her that I have a plan, and there is not any room for discussion or changes. This is the Plan:

Next year, the kids and I are going to fly down to California for Thanksgiving, and we will stay until Christmas. DFM will fly down with us, then fly home for a couple weeks, then come back down for Christmas, and we will all go home together after Christmas. My mom said, “What if we kill each other?”; while that is a possibility, I have gone down with the kids for three weeks several times, and things have been fine. My kids will get to see that holidays are really fun, not weird time-warps with strange tension and people they don’t know. They will be with three grandparents who dote on them, not be auxiliary kids; they will get to go in the woods with two dozen uncles, aunts, grandparents, friends and cousins to hunt for a Christmas tree, and then help grandpa cut it down. They will be a part of the crazy wonderland that is my mom’s house at Christmas, including the Grizwald-style front yard, and the huge tree in the front window that has a remote control and actually spins. (People drive by my mom’s house at night, stop, get out, and look in wonder.)

There were trade-off’s I knew I was making when we moved away; my kids don’t get to have Sunday dinner with grandma and grandpa, my dad has to come up here to teach the boys to fish, things require a little more effort, but sharing in the magic of a really close and loving family is not something I am willing to trade on.

I know the plan is a little risky, but I really think it will work. My mom laughed when I told her what was happening, but my brothers both called within the hour to vote their encouragement. DFM is mostly for it- when we got married he told me he was so happy to part of this family, and he knows how much fun Christmas is at mom’s. I don’t want another day like yesterday, and even cat-fights with my mom would be more fun than having my mother-in-law sit between me and my husband. DFM agrees with that!

Bitter Woman Ranting

So I am totally out of the first trimester and almost half way through the second. The pregnancy books mock me by saying how much energy most women have in the second t.m., and how you should be feeling better, nausea gone, sex drive in high gear… uhhh…did I miss the boat somewhere? Am I the only woman in the world who does not have a life or pregnancies like that? Sex drive? Puhhh-leeze! Don’t touch me, I might barf on you!

I have avoided writing about it lately, mostly because I am sick of thinking about it, but I am still totally barfing every day, usually several times. Actually, I have decided to try and put a positive spin on it- If I am going to toss the cookies anyway, why not eat whatever I want? So I had a big burrito today with sour cream and extra cheese, totally enjoyed it until the waves started, then lost the whole thing. Is that sick? No pun intended. Am I becoming an incubating bulimic?

Tomorrow looms as a big nasty cloud of smells to deal with. Eww. That’s all I can think of, all the smells that will be filling the house, and we will be at the in-laws, so I have to have a barf back-up plan. Here at home, I keep a bucket in the kitchen sink and in the bathroom, but that probably won’t fly at someone else’s home. Why a bucket? I have two little boys, and hanging my head in the toilet is beyond the pale, no matter how many times I scrub it- it’s also more comfortable to barf at counter-height- something I wish I didn’t know.

I have been instructed to bring a broccoli casserole tomorrow. Let’s all laugh together at how much that is going smell baking. Of all things, a broccoli casserole?? Oh, and a salad. I can handle a salad- won’t be able to eat it, but I can make one without gagging.

So I hope everyone out there who knows me better than I know you have a great and wonderful and loving Thanksgiving. May your day be lovely and filled with good family memories and happy moments. Meanwhile, I will be in the bathroom, trying to be quiet so as not to make a scene and ruin 26 people’s dinner. Happy Turkey Day everyone.

Thanksgiving

The blogosphere is abuzz with folks writing about Thanksgiving and compiling lists of things they are thankful for. It’s tempting, but I am not making any headway on a list that I feel good about. It just feels trite and contrived, a lot like Thanksgiving. Generally, I dislike this particular holiday -not the idea, just how we celebrate it- and am feeling stymied and constipated with all the drab colors and food and work involved in throwing down such a massive feast. My favorite part of Thanksgiving is after dinner while doing the dishes, when we can officially get out the Christmas music.

When I was a kid, Thanksgiving was a fun day when my grandma bought really expensive cheese and I got to eat it. The house was full of family and my mom was usually battling at the oven, but she was happy. Everyone drank too much wine at dinner and laughed really loud, and I would go in my room until dinner was over. People would come visit me in my room, mostly because the door had been closed all day and the air was cool and clean and still. I remember spending more than one Thanksgiving painting at my desk while I listened to the adults carry on. One year they were doing shots and ended up leg-wrestling on the kitchen floor- I watched SWMNBN flip my aunt over in a somersault across the linoleum. They were both pretty lit.

So I have made a boiled down list:

It is really simple, actually. I am grateful for hearts capable and willing to Love, and I am grateful for the Hope and Forgiveness contained therein.

This gratitude covers my family, my life, the Gospel, my faith, my aspirations, and the general state of the world and the Eternities. I’m ok with that.

Can we skip the turkey and awful dressing-bread stuff and cranberry sauce shaped like a tin can and just get out the Bing Crosby now??

Not Today

I spent almost an hour this morning working on a post while my kids watched Dumbo. I used the cute new trick I learned to link to other posts, and was just writing the end wrap-up when my kids unplugged the computer.

I have neither the heart nor the patience to try again. I can’t figure out if I want to scream some more or cry. And all my sentences are starting with “I”. Good writing, Trace.

The post was about Uncle Freddy.

Crap.

Hurricane Tracy

Over at FMH there is a post I wish I had written. Artemis talks about faith and challenging it with a clarity I needed put into words, since it is pretty much what has been stewing in my mind. http://www.feministmormonhousewives.org/?p=398 Check it out if you are interested.

My faith is something that I am finding is more like a roller coaster than a steady, even, boat ride. And, I am learing this is ok, it’s kind of like mothering- sometimes I rock, sometimes not so much, and not panicking during the “not-so-much” is a pretty sane thing to master. So now, as I watch my faith as well as my mothering skills go through “grand cycles’ (like hurricanes) I am learning to roll with it, a-la Steve Martin in “Parenthood”. Actually, MMW had a post on the grand cycles of hurricanes and how they are analogous to being a mother. Wish I knew how to make a real link with a cute caption…