Because we have been moving and unpacking for the last 2 weeks, my amazing little sister has given me permission to repost a blog post she wrote this week. I love, love, loved it! Let me know what you think! And, for the record, I have added the pictures.
***This post is dedicated to those people, both named and unnamed, who have had a powerful impact in helping me to become who I am. All stories have been used with the permission of those mentioned.***
I am a feminist. I always have been a feminist. And, unlike many people around me, I have no qualms about labeling myself as one. I should, however, explain what feminism is to me. Feminism, and the fight for equality in general, is based in the idea that all people deserve the same opportunities, respect, and choice, regardless of sex (or race or whatever else the inequality may be about). What feminism isn’t about is hatred of men or belief that anyone should be given more opportunities even if they don’t have the ability to succeed there. To me, that isn’t equality, nor is it kind. I am not fighting for equality in pay because I want women who are less qualified and do less work to be paid the same as men who are more qualified or who do more work. I am fighting for equality in pay because I want women who are as qualified, or more so in some cases, to get the pay they deserve.
Feminism has been a hot topic recently, not least of all due to Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. I have seen too much hate and too many double standards to remain quiet. Things that should not become national news are, simply because of biological sex. America, as a country, has come a long way. But it has recently been more and more obvious that there is still much to do. While I certainly am not going to claim to have all the answers, I do have some ideas of how each of us, as individuals, can begin to change the tide.
Growing up, my parents never gave me any indication that I couldn’t do anything that I set my mind to. I loved to sing and dance and for many years wanted to go professional in one or the other. That obviously was a longshot and was something that for various reasons I didn’t pursue, but my parents didn’t discourage me from it. I have distinct memories of my father telling me that I could go to any college and major in anything that I wanted, as long as I got a scholarship there. The world was wide open to me as long as I was willing to put in the work. I think it was important that they taught me both to believe in my dreams and abilities and to work hard to get there. It wasn’t until I was in junior high that I discovered people didn’t expect me to be good in certain subjects by virtue of my biological sex (i.e., math, science). By then, my parents had so engrained in me to not let anyone else dictate what I accomplished, I didn’t let other people’s expectations stop me. In fact, I almost majored in math in college just to spite everyone (Something I get from my mother, as will be illustrated below).
Despite the expectations or objections of others, I graduated with a 4.0 in high school, got all of my undergraduate paid for through scholarships, worked hard to support myself through college and prepare for graduate school, graduated cum laude with my bachelor’s degree, spent way more hours at school than home during the first few years of my Ph.D. program, got my master’s degree this past June, continue to spend almost all of my time at school, and have centered my graduate education on giving myself the best chance for success post-graduation with my doctorate.
While I have certainly worked hard to get to where I am, I didn’t get here by myself. I am where I am in large part due to the shoulders upon which I stand. I am surrounded by women and men who have taught me my worth. My aunts are tough as nails and can strike the fear of God into any man with a single look in response to anything that could be considered chauvinistic. My sisters and sisters-in-law are strong, independent, and driven. My father, brothers, and brothers-in-law respect the women in their lives and push them to be the best they can be. The men I work with, professors and students alike, support the women around them and continuously strive to ensure that I, personally, know all of the difference I can make in the world, both in big ways and small ways. And my husband has been more than willing to frequently do all of the cooking, cleaning, bill paying, and repairs in our home. He has also sacrificed many hours that we could be spending time together and will be staying in Utah far longer than he wanted in order for me to accomplish my goals. I could go on and on, but I want to mention a four women in particular who have shaped my life.
My cousin, Andrea, graduated with her bachelor’s degree, went on a mission for the LDS church, and started law school before she was married. She was determined to finish law school. She and her husband, James, sacrificed a lot for her to do so, including Andrea staying in Utah with their infant son to finish school while James moved to another state to start dental school. Once she graduated from law school, she moved to where James was and began raising their family full time. Almost 18 years and six kids later, Andrea has never worked as a lawyer. She has also never regretted her decision to finish, nor her decision to not work. She raised incredible children who are intelligent, driven, grounded, and who know and understand the value of hard work. Her daughters know that they have the potential to do a lot of good in the world and that they get to choose the path their lives take. While she never worked as lawyer, Andrea never stopped learning and progressing. She developed her painting, photography, wood working, cooking, and cake decorating skills. And most recently she started serving as a city council member in her city.
Another cousin, Erin, was in her first year of medical school when she learned she was pregnant with twin girls, instead of just the one baby they had planned on. Despite the surprise bonus baby and the additional complications of having twins, she and her husband, Jeff, worked hard through the ensuing years so that Erin could finish her medical training. As of earlier this year, she is a board certified neonatal-perinatal physician. Together, she and Jeff also had two more daughters. It has taken them years and years, and they have had to sacrifice in ways they probably never imagined, but they didn’t give up. And their daughters are developing into amazing people. I have never met girls who understand so clearly that they can take on the world. They know that they can love painting their nails and playing with babies while still killing it on the softball field and developing an awesome rock collection. They are smart, stubborn, incredible girls who are willing to put in the work to become the people they want to be.
My second mother growing up was Debbie. Debbie married at a young age and immediately started having kids. She gave birth to 10 beautiful babies over almost 20 years and suffered through the grief of only getting the opportunity to raise 8 of her precious children. But in the end, she has raised so many more children than her own. Their home was always a place of safety and love for all of the children in the neighborhood. Debbie’s patience and genuine love for those around her leaves me speechless. She has always been willing to sacrifice in order to serve others. She helped instill in the children she interacted with that they were unique beings with a divine potential. She has tried her entire life to emulate who she believes God to be and in doing so has shared the love He has for each of His children with everyone she interacts with. She learned to cook, sew, and arrange flowers to a masterful level. Throughout their marriage, her husband, Karl, has owned and operated two businesses with Debbie doing the work right alongside him. While she may not be a “typical” example of a feminist, her unfailing love and respect for all people is one of the most feminist things I have ever experienced.
My mother has always been a feminist. She was on the first women’s basketball team at her junior high, organized her friends to all wear jeans on the same day so the school administration wouldn’t send them all home, was the first girl in her school’s shop class, and still has back problems from her college weight lifting class because she needed to prove to a chauvinistic man that women were strong too (Told you I got it from her). She was still in college when she married my father but was determined to finish. She was pregnant and throwing up during her entire student teaching, but she did indeed graduate with her bachelor’s degree. After graduation, she chose to stay home with her children until I, the youngest, was in kindergarten. For a few years she taught at my elementary school in various capacities. When I was in fourth grade, my mother went back to school. She had to suffer through the pain of going to college all over again while still making sure she was doing everything in her power to love and support her family. Since that time, she has taught resource at junior highs in our area. During most of my growing up years, my mother wasn’t a stay at home mom. But she was there for all of the important moments. And by not being there, she was explaining to me and my siblings the importance of education in the most effective way she knew how. In my completely biased opinion, she and my father raised six independent, strong, loving and pretty amazing people.
While all the examples I have given are very different, they have some important things in common. These women chose for themselves who they were going to be and what they were going to accomplish and have never regretted the lives they chose for themselves. They all knew how important their influence was both in and out of the home and were willing to work hard to ensure they made a positive impact in every area of their lives. They all have continued to learn throughout their lives in order to improve themselves and to create a better world for me and the others who have come after them.
To me, that is worth fighting for. The ability to choose my path without someone placing imaginary obstacles in my way is why I am a feminist. I chose to get a Ph.D. Once I am done with school, I may choose to work and I may choose to stay home with my kids. And at some point, I may change my mind based on the circumstances. But I have the power to determine my own destiny. Yes, all of my choices will be made with my husband, but that is because we are a team. We make decisions together because that’s how it works when you get married, not because I need his permission to do anything.
I think that true change and pure feminism begin with indoctrinating each generation with the truth of who they are. They are unique people who are loved by God and by their families. And especially for women, we need to teach them they have the potential to be like God, which means that their divine nature does not lie solely within what they can do in the home. That is an integral part, but to become like God, we must develop in every sphere. Let us embolden a new generation of women and men who believe all people are equal in the sight of God and deserve to be treated as such. Let us not get wrapped up in screaming the loudest about the injustices done to us but continuously push forward in raising a generation even greater than ourselves. Our current success comes from the shoulders upon which we stand. It is now our turn to be those shoulders and to support the amazing women who come after us.
This was originally posted on The Littlest Keddington.