It was 7th grade. We were doing a group project on different Native American tribes. My group had chosen "the plains" Indians. Because my dad had been a cowboy and Indian artist for half of my life at that point we had numerous resources at home that helped us with the project. I brought books, pictures, and even Indian clothes and costumes for the report. Our project went fantastic, best in the class, and we of course got 100%. After the project was over the last assignment was to grade each other on how we did working in the group. It has stuck with me for the rest of my life. When it got to my turn I was expecting praise and really a pat on the back. I had worked so hard and produced a wonderful product. I remember we each had to go around the group of 4 and critic each other. (Looking back I can't believe in 7th grade we did this....) The first person said, "Well Kristin, you did a good job getting all the stuff and information but you were kinda bossy." I felt like someone had punched me in the stomach. What!?! I turned to the next person hoping they would back me up, defend me against this horrible accusation. "Well you did have all the stuff so of course you kinda had to take charge but.... yeah you were bossy." I was mad, furious! I felt betrayed. I felt ashamed. How ungrateful! I had just worked my butt off and got those 3 kids a 100% and this is what I got? I learned at a very young age of 13 years old that the worst thing in the world was being called bossy. From then on I did everything in my power to prevent anyone from saying that about me again. Even if it meant getting a poor grade or having a bad decision made. Never again was someone going to call me bossy.
I haven't thought about that story in years. Probably 17 to be exact. Until this morning on my run as I was listening to a TED talk about "Disruptive Leadership". The current CEO of Facebook, a woman, was talking about the word bossy and why it is only used in reference to women. She of course was arguing that the world would be a better place if more women were in leadership positions, had more pull, and had more influence on the world. But for some reason both men and women have a difficult time with women in leadership. She gave all sorts of numbers and statistics about this but the only number I specifically remember her using was that only 13% of political leaders are women in the United States today.
Of course this got the wheels in my head turning. Not necessarily towards leadership or women power, but the role of women. I probably think about this topic more than most because I am a little resentful towards how in my culture I felt limited in how I was able to dream of the future. I don't blame this limitation on my parents or the church in general I blame it on the culture. And I guess I am trying to work through how to change my view on the role of women in order to prevent the same limitations being set on future girls/my daughters.
My reasoning for posting this online is I'd love to hear the views of others, particularly women of my same culture, on what they believe should be the emphasized as the role of women currently and in the future.
I feel like there are two camps of women that are highly criticized within our culture: girls who sit around and wait to get married with no ambition or drive and girls with lots of dreams and ambition that get labeled as "man-haters" and "career women" that aren't interested in having families. For the record I've spent the last 12 years of my life surrounded by two 100% LDS universities and I have never actually met a woman in the second camp. I have never met a girl at either church institution say, "I have no desire to get married and have a family."
I believe because of the criticism heard about both of these camps many girls like me, tried to shoot somewhere in the middle. Rather than dream about how we wanted to influence and affect society, what we are good at, how we could make the most money, or what we actually wanted to do, we chose a path that was practical, a path that easily led us to being wives and mothers. When I think of the women I have associated with over the course of the last 12 years of adulthood, a large majority are teachers, nurses, beautician, or some type of secretarial assistant. Now in no way am I trying to suggest these are not noble or worthy careers. But I do have to question, how many of these girls chose these careers, which typically don't make the money or lead to the prestige of other careers, if they hadn't felt the same limitation that I felt. Why are we holding ourselves back? Even within the field of education which is becoming more and more predominately women, why was I the only woman in my Educational Leadership Masters degree at BYU?
It's hard because right now I can hear someone reading this thinking, "Oh no here we go again, another LDS feminist who's going to wear pants to church next Sunday." And I guess to me, that is the problem. Once again there is two camps, extreme "womens libers" who still want to burn their bras, and women who passively support the status quo. What about us in the middle? Us that have no problem with only men having the Priesthood, only men attending Priesthood meetings, supporting and loving our husband, fathers, and other men within the church as they preside but still wonder about what the role of women is today?
We know that we are encouraged to be educated and ready to enter the workforce if necessary. But what does that mean? Is it okay to encourage girls to have dreams? Within the church should we be encouraging our girls to be doctors, astronauts, or even the president of a company as well as dreaming of being a wife and mother? Or do we have to choose? There is no question that within society today women are playing a more influential role. Is this wrong? Should the dreams of girls solely be related to be wives and mothers? If not, how do we encourage our girls to dream without creating these oh-so-feared bossy feminists that reject to the role of mother and wife? Where is the balance?