Friday, October 25, 2013

I Am...

The other day I was in the park with my four kids.  The air was crisp and all October.  We found a spot in the sun to lay our blanket down and the leaves made a satisfying crunch as I spread out the blanket on the grass and began to pass out lunch.  The kids happily munched on apple slices and took bites from their peanut butter sandwiches.  We had the park to ourselves so I let them fully feel that freedom of space, like clumsy hummingbirds, flitting and tripping back and forth between our picnic and a small pile of leaves they tried to satisfactorily jump into.  Then back to their sandwich, then to the swings a few yards away.  My baby grunted and talked in his monosyllabic way, letting me know he was happy as I helped him eat, propped up in his stroller.  His eyes wandered upward when the wind gently picked up, trying to figure out what was making the whooshing noise.  A few more leaves fell on our picnic.

And my heart swelled.

Not everyday with my four kids are perfect fall days with crunchy leaves under a picnic blanket, but that day was marvelous and I was reminded how much I love my job.  My job as mom.  I treasure being able to stay
home all day with this rag tag crew of crazies.  I love them more than there are enough words in the lexicon of language to describe.  I feel grateful I am where I want to be.  Grateful that our family has that freedom to choose right now.

I proudly stay at home and do dishes, fold laundry, wipes noises and bums, celebrate potty training, play with plastic horses and plastic food, plan meals, sing lullabies, read stories, give hugs, kiss owies, sometimes get a shower for the day, wave at the mailman, go to play dates, wear an apron on occasion, read stories, go to the library, sometimes sneak a nap when they are, wash the floor, scrub toilets, cook dinner, bake muffins, sweep sand out of my kitchen, pour milk in sippy cups, cut up waffles, help with puzzles, dry tears, lose my patience, keep my patience (and sneak a cookie), make up songs, turn on shows, put on socks and shoes, look for pacifiers, wonder if I'm measuring up to what's expected of me and many, many other domestic duties make up my day.  I am a domestic housewife.  I'm a stay at home mom.  I'm also a feminist.

I haven't always been comfortable with this label. This word feminism has a lot of nasty press.   People tend to think of a woman burning her bra while screaming from the rooftops how angry she is at every man she's ever known because they've always tried to hold her back, hold her down, and she's not going to take it anymore!  But feminism means to advocate for women's rights.  It means you care if women have rights politically, socially and economically. And the more I realize my own true north, and what's in my heart, the more I embrace this word and title of feminist, for myself.

Feminism is the reason women can vote.  Feminism is the reason a woman can have a baby and not get fired.  It's the reason she can give birth, heal and rest, and still have a job when she gets back.  Feminism is the reason your daughter can aspire to be an astronaut, a scientist, the president instead of only wondering if she'll be a secretary or a nurse. (Both great professions, except 50 years ago, those were pretty much the only choices for "career women.")  Feminism is how your daughter (or you) can play sports in high school and college.  (It's easy to forget this was actually a right that was fought for and made into law back in 1972.)  Feminism is the reason women can run in the Boston Marathon. Feminism is Eleanor Roosevelt and Mia Hamm.  Feminism is Malala Yousafzai.

I'm shyly coming out of my feminist closet.  We women are powerful creatures.  Our inherent characteristics that God has given us have the ability to change the world for the better.  The world.  Given the chance to lead in the political, social and economic realm, we could heal nations, communities and families.  I believe this with the inside of my bones.  We need a seat at that proverbial table.  Feminism can do good things.

However, I'm deeply embedded in a culture that sometimes (naively) condemns feminism and accuses feminists of destroying family ideals and values and blurring gender characteristics.  But I'm here to say I am a feminist who loves her role as wife and mother, which is exactly why I am a feminist. My job as stay at home mom means I am shaping future generations.  The love I show, the time I invest, the lessons I teach and learn along the way will echo through generations of my descendants.  I have an immensely important job to do and I want every opportunity and tool available to do it.

Recently, there were some extremely harsh and derogatory comments directed at feminists in my religion in regards to petitioning the brethren of our church to ask God if women can be ordained to the priesthood.  These women stood outside a priesthood meeting meant only for the males of our church and asked to be let in.  They wanted inclusion in regards to ordination and most had their own reason why they were there.  There are many different personalities and entreaties within this movement. (If you're outside of the Mormon culture, this was kind of a big deal, read more about it here, or here, or here.)  I wasn't in line with those women that day.  I'm actually not sure where I stand on the issue of women's ordination.  That's an honest answer.  I'm still in the process of praying about it and asking God questions. But I do know a few things for certain:

1) God loves it when you come to Him with questions.
2) Jesus said to love our neighbor.

My heart ached when I witnessed the raw, vitriol response to my fellow sisters (i.e. my neighbors) asking God a question. (Question: can women be ordained to the priesthood?)  I saw a few Facebook comments and comments on blog posts about this issue, whose authors were mormon (so therefore disciples of Christ) calling "these Mormon feminists" apostates, asking them to leave the church and go form their own, questioning their faith in God, their testimonies, their understanding of sacred rites performed in our holy temples calling them crazy and idiotic and sometimes even accusations of blasphemy for even bringing up the subject of women in relation to the priesthood.  And I shrunk back in my feminist closet and turned out the light.  (I think the internet gives people an ugly mask they normally wouldn't wear and words they normally wouldn't use if they were sitting on your living room couch.)

I have some sincere questions about the role of the priesthood in regards to womanhood.  Even before this event.  Questions that I've still yet to gain a satisfactory answer.  Maybe I'll search until the day I'm able to ask the Savior myself.  I'm not angry about it and it's never damaged my testimony of Christ or caused me to question my membership in His church.  I've grown accustomed to God planting peace in my heart if I don't get an answer right away.  I can handle that.  It's the venom and vile I can't.  Especially from those that claim to be followers of the Savior.

The irony of it all (to me) is that our church was founded on questions and answers.  A 14 year old boy had a question and he took it to God.  He read from the bible in James 1:5, If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men (and women) liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.  I belong to that church that was founded from the premise of this scripture.  Personally, I think God is OK with the question and answer thing.

I'm definitely not perfect and would never want my flaws put up on any Jumbotron.  There are peee-lenty of things I do wrong.  So I sincerely hope this post didn't come across as 'holier than thou.'  Remember, this blog is my version of therapy.  This is my cool down after the marathon of emotions I've been through in regards to this issue.

Mostly, I want the world to be a kinder place.  Especially in places where I've come to rely on peace and welcoming.  If I have a question about my theology, I want to be received with the love of Christ, not the rebuke of online rants.  I've decided to memorize the Prayer of St. Francis and study Matthew 5.  Be the change. Right?

Also, along with the kindness thing, (and perpetual belief that given the chance, women have the power to change our world for the better)  I want everyone to know that
I am a mormon,
I am a wife,
I am a mother who happily stays at home,

and I am a feminist.

So I guess I'm officially out.  Phew.  That felt good.  Kind of like a warm, October afternoon.

(Or slobbery baby kisses.)


Unknown said...

Kara- you have done it again. Beautiful! I always hesitate to comment because I am not very good with words but I have to tell you how much that moved me!! Love you!

Allysha said...

I don't like the term feminist because it has come to have so many implications I am uncomfortable with. Don't get me wrong, I am all for women. But I am for men, too. I want my girls to grow to be powerful, good women, and my boys to be powerful, good men. I don't want either to grow up feeling less than. And I think that there are important roles for each to play, although that is an unpopular idea for some.

I think the world has so misconstrued the true power of women and mothers that it has warped society's perception of the important work women do. And I think our society is in the process of warping it's perception of men now.

I am not a fan of the ordain women movement. I think they have mistakenly felt they can lobby the church like it is a political organization. It's not.

Heavens! I could tell you, though, about the innate power that I think we have. (But we'll have to discuss it some other time! :)

I think you are a wonderful mother and woman! You are amazing!

P.S. I'm excited for your move! It will be such an amazing experience.

Kiersten said...

Hi Kara! I saw your FB update about your last blog post and started snooping around on your blog. I hope you don't mind. Anyway, I just wanted to say that I appreciate this post so much. It sums up a lot of the thoughts that I've been having about the Ordain Women movement and about the issue of women and the priesthood in general. Thoughts that I've been having for quite a while but haven't been able to fully form because I feel like there aren't many people to talk to about these issues who aren't going to start giving me a suspicious are-you-going-to-go-apostate on me side eye as soon as I open my mouth to discuss these issues. Thank you for the reminder that you can have questions and still be a faithful Latter-day Saint, and that in fact our Heavenly Father wants us to come to Him with our concerns, and that He will give us peace in return. You write beautifully. I hope things are going well for the six of you. Best of luck these next few days and in the weeks to come as you make the move!