Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Bossy : the role of Women

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?


Sharla Watene said...

Argh....I wish I had an answer to your questions. I think I struggle with this every day! I keep thinking about a conversation I had with my old boss last year in Hawaii encouraging me to apply for my ultimate dream job. I was so torn because I would love nothing more than to work full time as a therapist especially at a University like BYUH but ultimately it would mean going back to working full time. IS this wrong to have that desire? I don't think it is. What's wrong is that we do live in a culture that doesn't support that dream because there is a misbelief that the only way to raise healthy successful children is to have a stay at home mom with them. I could go on and on but we both know how I feel so I should probably stop now....

goddessdivine said...

Oh man, I have so many thoughts/opinions on this. But I'll try not to get carried away here.

I specifically remember a quote I found in "Teachings of President Hinckley". When asked whether girls should seek marriage, a mission, or an education, he said, "I hope they go for all three." That made my heart swell. (Course, I found that quote when I was like 28.) While my parents strongly encouraged a college education, I still feel like that culture you talked about kinda made me feel like getting married was THE most important thing for me. Here I am in my 30s and single; soooo glad I got my education, and then a 2nd degree. But I do wish I felt more strongly that I could have done something, I don't know....more demanding? I went the practical route.

I think women have to find the right balance for them personally. And I think we need to realize that we can't exactly have our cake and eat it too. I'm all for women being all they can be and reaching our potential, but I also believe in the divine roles we have as wives and mothers. Balance.

Amy Crandall said...

Oh man, I agree! About 8 months into my PhD at BYU, I had a co-worker ask me if I was dating a boy who wanted me to quit my program to start a family if I would do it. I looked at him and said, "Absolutely not!" The shocked silence that ensued still reminds me that my choices are against the social norm and considered 'wrong' by many.

Personally, (and what do I know, I'm 23 and single?) I think not teaching young girls to have big dreams is wrong. In fact, asking anything less of them is preventing them from reaching their true potential. So maybe for some that means having a family and staying home, and for others it means having a stable career, and for others it means doing both. Why do we insist on being so critical of each other's choices? I wish this culture would propagate a little more understanding and acceptance of personal choices.

And p.s. I totally want to wear pants to church- it's freakin' cold in the winter!

Trevor said...

So, I'm a man. Just wanted to say that I also think about my family. I'm in the medical field and I have found that there are ALWAYS more opportunities, more opportunities for prestige, more work to be done. I also wonder if I'm spending too much time at work, or if I should be aiming higher. I know this is almost completely different but there are similarities. I think one should periodically look inside and see if the path they are on will make one and ones family happy, and make what coarse corrections you can to be happy and fulfilled now and in the future.

Katherine Goodell Call said...

long time no talk :) so glad there's facebook to get snipets of each others' lives. your blog totally got my attention because, like most women, this has been on my mind. first thought is on only 13% of political leaders are women. i feel like one reason is culture; women are to raise kids and be in the home etc... and another is the fact that women want to raise kids and be in the home. i say that because i have a friend who just had her first baby but she had to go back to work and has dreaded it. she wants to stay at home...maybe not forever but she wants to right now. there are women who want both, family and career, but the fact is that you still have to put the career on hold to have kids whether it's 6 weeks on maternity leave or you decide to go back to work until they're in school, the career gets put on the back burner and everyone else is moving ahead while you are taking a break. it's not bad it's just the reality of society. now that leads me to the point on society. society makes it really inconvenient to have kids. only 6 weeks of maternity leave?? Sweden gives women a year! you have to be full time to work the career of your dreams but how do you pick up your kids from school? what really doesn't help is that most families need two incomes right now. so then there's day care and then you're accused by society for not being a good mom??! it's like a double edge sword; please have a family it's your duty but make sure you can make your mortgage payment at the same time. finding that balance of mom and career woman isn't easy, but i'm 28 married and no kids, so i don't really know for sure but i'm nervous about how i will decide how to accomplish balance between my dream job and kids. there needs to be flexibility.
as for the church. i like goddessdivine's quote from President Hinkley. go for all of it! priesthood? okay i admit it i slightly lean on the 'burning bras' team; not "give women the priesthood!", but i can't help but feel that there's more; after going to the temple i can't help but hope and feel that there is more for women in the church and in eternity. i also strongly feel that women do not have an equal voice (note position, voice)in the church and that can depend on who the bishop is, ward/stake circumstances, etc... but in my experience i feel i'm always asking for permission even it if it's just so we can have brownies, or the young men have a privilege that the young women don't...nit picky things but they've bothered me a little.
last of all the church teaches that the role of women is to be the nurturer. not the cook, not the cleaning lady, not the cab driver, a nurturer. i believe that women can nurture and work.

sorry this is long :/

Karen said...

Opening up the closet doors to air them out! I'm a feminist! There. I said it.

But before you go jumping to conclusions, I should mention that I am not a women's liber. The difference? I believe women are wonderful. I love being a women. I love being a mom. I love my talents, gifts, and interests. I also believe I can do anything. I believe I am smart, talented, ambitious, and have a LOT to contribute to society. I want to be at home with my kiddos, but just to stay home? No. I like to read, but I'm not spending my days cooking, driving, wiping up messes, and folding laundry. I fill it with meaningful things. I think personal relationships is very important. I think service is hugely important. Lifting others burdens comes in so many forms, and I try to fill my days with that. What would I be teaching my 5 sons if I was "just a stay at home mom"?? What would I be teaching them about WOMEN if I catered to all of their whims and desires instead of filling my days with so much more?

But just like you Kristin, I'm in the middle. I don't really care if anyone wants to wear pants to church. But I do care that women are pushing off our very best talents, our very best "God given" traits (nurturer, help meet, angel) to somehow show the world that we are amazing at doing everything instead of the BEST things...

I'm not sure why I wanted to comment, but I can definitely say that knowing who you are, being comfortable in your own skin, and trusting in the Lord is far better than trying to have an appearance of something. I know when I look in the mirror who I am, and where I am going. That didn't come over night. It took soul searching, pondering, and a strong desire. Kudos to you for seeking out your own answer. Mine isn't everyones answer, but it is just that: Mine.

Ben and Anna said...

I Len lots more conservatively in my personal views than most of the other posters here. But I think it is completely individual. Each person has to decide "what is my top priority? My number one goal?" Then, "what is number 2?". When that is determined, time, talents, efforts, etc should align with that. For me, right now, that top priority is staying home and teaching my kids. In a year when they are all in school, that priority may shift. For some women, making the world a better place may be #1., because it will help everyone, including themselves and their kids. It is all about priorities, and making sure everything else is in line.