Today in my Sociology class, several students referred to “extreme feminism” in their comments. When pressed to clarify, one defined an extreme feminist as a woman who says, “I’m just as smart as men, and I should get paid the same. I should be able to support myself.” These are, for the most part, very young students about a half-generation younger than I. Many of them nodded in agreement.
Do you agree, too? Does my being a single mother who supports her family and wants to be paid fairly for the work she does make me an “extreme feminist?” Should I spend more of my time and effort looking pretty so I can find a man to support us instead? Should I pretend to be weaker and less intelligent than I am in order to be more attractive?
Don’t think it’s a real problem?
One of my far-more-liberal-than-average suitors once peeked at my resumé then asked what I did in a typical day at work. I answered (rather diminutively I thought); that I wasn’t programming much and in fact was struggling to keep my head above water with a print design project, but I was very happy with my job and felt like I was doing well. His response: “Wow Velda… Way to make a man feel completely inadequate.”
And it’s not just in dating that I’m being told I lack traditional femininity. Another person was kind enough to point out that, in the workplace, I would do better to use a barely-there handshake so I wouldn’t come off as being too powerful or confident.
Still another, an older gentleman, who I admire much, flattered me in his explanation of why my male and female coworkers had trouble accepting me. He explained that he knew Sheri Dew, and that I reminded him very much of her: smart-as-a-whip, passionate, and strong … and that because people don’t expect that in a woman, they find it intimidating.
Does my belief that I shouldn’t have to pretend to be someone I’m not make me an extremist, too?
Personally, I would say an extreme feminist is one who says a woman’s value is only in how well she penetrates the male-dominated workforce and political sphere. There are women who believe full-time mothers are wasting their mind and talent, and I couldn’t disagree more. Having spent a fair amount of time in the office myself. I’ve accomplished some neat things, but nothing compares, in my mind, to the importance of what I’m accomplishing at home. If I could, I would much rather spend more time with my children. That has always been my goal, and I’ve given up much for it, but I’d hardly consider what I’ve given a sacrifice. My kids are worth it.
Now for you Mormon folk: some see our beliefs as misogynistic, particularly where it comes to supporting the Priesthood. Others, like the girl in my class today, see women who believe they’re worth just as much as men are extreme. What does the doctrine teach us? We are daughters of our Heavenly Father, who loves us, and we love Him. Remember the Young Women values we strive to live? Remember the Relief Society Declaration? How can these possibly be interpreted as womanhood being of a lesser worth?
For those who believe that, in Utah at least, our Mormonism perpetuates these ideas, just have a look at any national magazine or TV advertisement. Take a look at MTV. Women are still reduced to sex objects time and time again. Even when we talk about empowering women, or women in power, her looks are still criticized. This isn’t a mormon problem. It isn’t just a media problem, either, and we aren’t going to solve the problem by pointing fingers.
Anyway, I’m not even sure how to conclude this right now. I have further ideas on the matter, but I’d like to go enjoy the fall colors with my kids this evening, so I’m logging off for now. I would love to hear your honest feedback and thoughts. I tend to think this sort of post in itself intimidates people, but please don’t be afraid to speak up. Is this a problem? Am I overly feministic to reject the importance of looks? What, if anything, should be done to influence the upcoming generation?