Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Watch What We Say

Another article on LAF/Beautiful Womanhood entitled Discouraging Younger Women concerned watching what negative things we say in front of younger women, especially regarding mothering and our spouses. 

I know some of my negative thoughts towards child-rearing stemmed from hearing such comments!  This was a good reminder to be careful of what I say around the younger generation when things get tough.  They'll figure out on their own that mothering and being a wife can be hard!

One Definition of Feminism

Another interesting article on LAF/Beautiful Womanhood today was regarding a definition of feminism:  "I’ll say that feminism is any movement that distracts a woman from her natural role as a wife, mother, nurturer, and guardian of the home."  I guess you can put it that way if you want to look at it in a completely negative view -- rather than one of fighting for women's rights, including the rights to stay home and be a wife, mother, nurturer, and guardian, etc.

I thought the author's point was pertinent in that the feminist movement did change the expectations of women:

With the onset of feminism, what happened was not that going into the man’s world of academic competition and work was secured as a valid option for the few women who didn’t marry. Rather, it was turned into the expected path for the many, many, many more who wanted to, and did marry and have children, and were then expected to juggle it all so as to “enjoy the best of both worlds” (side note: without truly being able to fully dedicate themselves to either path, as human resources are limited after all).

So, when a young girl today enters university or starts a promising career, it may be said that she is “taking advantage” of the opportunities feminism provided for her, but we mustn’t forget that she is also doing what is now expected of her – again, thanks to feminism. Academics and career are not a “treat;” they are now an obligation, and the reason why this is not fair to women is easy to see when you observe women juggling career with marriage, motherhood, and homemaking.

It goes without saying that not all women have “careers,” just as most men do not have careers, but simply jobs aimed at putting bread on the table. (And many feminists who hold themselves aloof don’t realize just how snobby and elitist it is to talk about “self-fulfillment” and “self-realization” and “empowerment.” Only a select few can afford that!). Many just work because it is now the expected norm for a woman to be doing “at least something” outside the home, and also because the flooding of the market with female labor force caused a sharp drop in salaries, so that living on one income immediately became much less comfortable than before (though certainly still feasible). Husbands began to feel that it is their right to expect the wife to generate an additional income, forgetting that it is their obligation to provide (again, in the Jewish tradition). All of this created a vicious cycle, the breaking of which requires conscious decision and quite a leap of faith.

Russia and Population Decline

There was a link on LAF/Beautiful Womanhood today to an article on the state of Russia speech.  "Political analysts were hoping to hear about missiles or democracy. Instead they got babies."

Sounds like Russia is getting concerned about population decline.  I thought that was kind of funny.  Nice to see that people are starting to get concerned about the state of the family again.

Friday, November 26, 2010

A Return to Modesty

In 1999, about a month before I got married, my friend Elisa told me about A Return to Modesty by Wendy Shalit.  I don't know why I wasn't too interested in the book at the time.  Maybe I was too busy; maybe I didn't care; maybe I was afraid the book would be too much info for my innocent mind.

Every couple of years since then, my husband says, "Remember that book, A Return to Modesty that Elisa told you about?  You should read it."  Finally after reading a review of Shalit's Girls Gone Mild (2007), I have.

I've quite enjoyed the book.  I especially enjoyed it because mostly it was the culture I grew up in.  Shalit is just a year older than I am and finished college also just a year before I did.  She explores and expresses in so much detail all aspects of modesty and perceptions of sexuality in our culture.  It's like she boldly took the words right out of my mouth (or mind) and also put new thoughts into my head.  And yes, it definitely would have been too much for my innocent mind in 1999.  I could have used an edited (slightly censored) version of the book, especially back then!  (See how I had to crop the cover of the book?  Just a little too racy for me.)  Shalit agrees that she is defending modesty "in the most obscene way" so that "our culture would . . . reconsider it."  I think she's right in that.  You can tell she is well educated and has thought a ton about this topic.  Her writing is very good.  I haven't read so many big words in over a decade!

I know the book was mainly directed toward young, single people, not old, married people, but the message still applies -- especially in raising children.  Some points that stood out to me:
  • Shalit writes about the sex education and attitudes towards sex in the public school systems in some states.  I had no idea it was that bad!  After reading that, I can definitely see why many people want to home-school their kids.  After reading also about the living arrangements at some colleges and the promiscuous attitudes among students, I can see why some girls want to be stay-at-home daughters and avoid the whole college scene.  I became extremely grateful for my upbringing in the bubble of conservative Utah.  I also became extremely grateful for the opportunities I had to go LDS colleges where we had curfews, we always had to have 3 in an apartment, curtains open if a guy was around, etc.  I was also glad that typically in Mormon culture, if your relationship with a boy dies after you've reached the kissing stage, at least all you've lost is just a kiss, nothing more important like your virtue!
  • In the past, modesty kept women safe. Men respected women's modesty and respected that women were different.
  • Maybe our inhibition and embarrassment about sex is there for a reason.  These feelings can protect us from getting hurt in an intimate relationship that is not committed.
  • Women are more selective about a sexual partner than a man.  They want someone who will stick around.  A man doesn't get so romantically/emotionally involved, and is more okay with casual sex; however, some people want women to believe they are as unemotional about the whole idea as men.  The sexual revolution of the 1960s basically "'permitted . . . more access to women's bodies by more men; what it actually achieved was not a great deal of liberation for women but a great deal of legitimacy for male promiscuity; what it actually passed on to women was the male fragmentation of emotion from body, and the easily internalized schism between . . . sex and responsible loving'" (192).
  • Kids do want rules.  They may not actually do what we say, but because we say it, at least they know we care and have some expectation of them.  We also need to listen to them and not brush off their concerns so they won't take even more extreme measures to get our attention. 
  • Modesty can be more intriguing that bearing it all.  It also causes others not to judge a woman just by her body.
  • If a man can get sex without a marriage commitment, then there's no reason for marriage -- and it ruins any romantic hope of women for catching a man for forever.
  • Shalit also pointed out, not quite related to modesty, that it was not the "patriarchy" but feminist writings that discouraged young women from staying home and raising a family (142).
I am excited to read Girls Gone Mild now to see what has changed in 8 years.  I wish I could find the audio book because reading takes up so much of my precious time!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

This Thanksgiving, I'm thankful for. . .

the Internet.

I put this on this blog because it really relates to motherhood for me.

We all need a social network and a way to contribute and feel useful.  I think that's why a lot of women want to get out of the house and get a job or volunteer or whatever.  For some reason, we can't seem to feel totally satisfied "just" staying at home.  I wish I could, but either I'm lacking the coping skills to feel completely useful and social by staying home all the time, or I'm too influenced by the feminists, or maybe there is something to getting out of the house.  

Whatever the reason, I think the Internet gives me a way to feel fulfilled.  I have a lovely social network (sadly not all that personal much of the time), and I can contribute things I learn on fun little blogs.  It's right here in my own home, whenever I want it.

The best part is, I can do it as much or as little as I want.  If the kids or house or husband or other people need me, I don't have deadlines, so I don't have to put the people off.  The Internet is still there waiting for me when I want to come back.

The trick is, though, not to let it overtake my life.  It's all about balance, isn't it?  If I'm sewing or blogging or socializing or cooking, all these good things can still cause me to neglect my family just as working outside the home can.

I think Cokie Roberts was onto something when she wondered in We Are Our Mothers' Daughters if the Internet might provide women with a social network that they would typically get at a job.  I'm so glad it does!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Joy of Womanhood Quotables

. . .Femininity "is the divine adornment of humanity. It finds expression in your … capacity to love, your spirituality, delicacy, radiance, sensitivity, creativity, charm, graciousness, gentleness, dignity, and quiet strength. It is manifest differently in each girl or woman, but each … possesses it. Femininity is part of your inner beauty."

You can recognize women who are grateful to be a daughter of God by their outward appearance. These women understand their stewardship over their bodies and treat them with dignity. They care for their bodies as they would a holy temple, for they understand the Lord’s teaching: “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?” (1 Cor. 3:16). Women who love God would never abuse or deface a temple with graffiti. Nor would they throw open the doors of that holy, dedicated edifice and invite the world to look on. How even more sacred is the body, for it was not made by man. It was formed by God. We are the stewards, the keepers of the cleanliness and purity with which it came from heaven. “If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are” (1 Cor. 3:17).
Grateful daughters of God guard their bodies carefully, for they know they are the wellspring of life and they reverence life. They don’t uncover their bodies to find favor with the world. They walk in modesty to be in favor with their Father in Heaven. For they know He loves them dearly. 

Education and Homemaking
Grateful daughters of God learn truths from their mothers and grandmothers and aunts. They teach their daughters the joyful art of creating a home. They seek fine educations for their children and have a thirst for knowledge themselves. They help their children develop skills that they can use in serving others. They know that the way they have chosen is not the easy way, but they know it is absolutely worth their finest efforts. 
“'When the real history of mankind is fully disclosed, will it feature the echoes of gunfire or the shaping sound of lullabies? The great armistices made by military men or the peacemaking of women in homes and in neighborhoods? Will what happened in cradles and kitchens prove to be more controlling than what happened in congresses?'”
My Favorite
The world has enough women who are tough; we need women who are tender. There are enough women who are coarse; we need women who are kind. There are enough women who are rude; we need women who are refined. We have enough women of fame and fortune; we need more women of faith. We have enough greed; we need more goodness. We have enough vanity; we need more virtue. We have enough popularity; we need more purity.
 --Margaret D. Nadauld in The Joy of Womanhood

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A Woman of Faith

[A woman of faith] stays away from the evil influence and the unclean thing, and if it encroaches on her territory, she is as a lioness protecting her cubs. . . .  [Her children] not only hear her discuss her commitment, but they see her commitment in her daily living—in the way she dresses, what she reads and watches, how she spends her leisure time, what she loves and laughs at, whom she attracts, and how she acts at all times, in all things, and in all places. She has a certain style of her own that is attractive and joyful and bright and good. Our little girls and our young women can safely trust in her example. -- Margaret Nadauld in "A Woman of Faith"

Monday, November 15, 2010

We Are Our Mothers' Daugters

I just finished We Are Our Mothers' Daughters by Cokie Roberts.  I've been meaning to read this book for a long time now.  It came out in 1998.  That's 12 years ago -- when I finished college!  I've always loved Roberts' research on women.

I was amazed at the wonderful stories of strong women she shared; I was uplifted by Roberts' inspirational writing.  I was convinced that we women need to work better together whether we work outside the home or not.  I was reminded of my friend's saying, "We're all just doing the best we can."

The experiences of women she shared were inspiring.  They were stories of women who have made a difference in the world.  The things the women changed were things that needed changing, and they were things women generally care about more than men (nutrition labels on food as an example).

But part of me still has to wonder if these women who have done all these wonderful things outside of the home could have also done amazing things inside the home?  I'm sure they did that, too, but could it have been even better?  I also felt that God was left out of the picture.  Roberts book makes a lot of sense if you leave God and His plan for us out.

Roberts suggests that while children are small, it is important to be home, maybe not full-time, with them.  She also mentions that because she worked, she was a better mother (189).  And I get that.  It just also tells me that we're training up our young women to need fulfillment outside the home.

Roberts' mother worked along-side her father -- and you can see how that influenced Roberts in how she lives her life.  It is neat to see what we gain from our mothers just because of their examples.  Interestingly, I learned at BYU's Education Week this last summer that genetically women get pretty much all of their DNA from their mothers.  I've tended to follow the traditions of my father's family for some reason (European/American), but after learning that my core makeup is really after my mother's,  maybe I ought to learn more of her heritage  and traditions (Scandinavian).  If it worked for those women for hundreds of years, maybe it will work for me. . . .

I do like how she mentioned that the Internet may help women find a social network without leaving home (remember this book was written in 1998.  I'd only used the Internet for the first time two years prior!).  Three cheers from me for the Internet!!!  I find much satisfaction in the contributions I can make through the Internet.

Roberts mentioned someone stating that housework is not hard, just lonely.  Amen!

She also said staying home with children is a worthy way to spend a life, but it just wasn't fulfilling for her. She seemed tickled to have a wonderful husband and children and also enjoyed running the house the way she liked.  She always thought of herself as a mother before anything else.  It was nice to see the respect from her for the stay-at-home mom.  For her, there's not the debate between the types of moms.  I think that's a good thing.

This was neat, too -- she grew up Catholic, her husband Jewish.  So, what did they do with their children?  They raised them both religions.  What a novel idea!  She said it got pretty crazy around some seasons of the year, but it was worth it.

In conclusion, Roberts suggested women CAN do it all, just as women have done for generations, but we'll be tired.

I enjoyed this book; although, I didn't completely agree with it. It gave me a nice perspective of the working mother and reminded me of all the awesome contributions of women.  I believe women should have the right to participate in society just as anyone else, but I'd hope more would choose to stay home.

Teaching the Doctrine of the Family

I read "Teaching the Doctrine of the Family" by Julie Beck last night.  Wow.  She hit the nail right on the head.  Wow again.

She started off the talk mentioning how she'd asked young people why their education is so important.  She got many replies.  Anything from it's "the key to success" to a way "to meet other great . . . youth."  The answer that was strongly lacking was that of, "So I will someday be a better family leader."  She goes on:
Family is rarely on their minds.  Their responses are generally about self, and of course we know this is the time of life they're in.  They're living in a very self-interested time of life, but they aren't thinking about family.
Julie Beck points out that the youth are surrounded by "evidence. . . that the family is not important."  "They don't see forming families as a faith-based work."  She says "They are being desensitized about the need to form families." The youth are bombarded with messages of "You are the one who will get yourself ahead.  It's because of your skills and intelligence that you will be successful."  It's not about God and family, it's about you.  We need to make sure they know it really is about God and family.

This all reminds me of when I was considering going to graduate school.  I was counseled in filling out my applications:  "Don't write how you think this program will help you be a better mother (or father) because that won't help you get in."  But wasn't that really what my end goal should have been --  my future family?  I wasn't doing this to further my career (what career? I really didn't want one anyway -- I didn't want to get set on one that I'd have to eventually give up).

Family.  The core of LDS theology (summarizing Julie Beck):  If we believe that the glory of God is "to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man" (Moses 1:39), meaning being connected eternally as families through the priesthood ordinances found in temples of Christ's restored church, then family has to be our main focus so we can fulfill the glory of God and not "utterly waste" the creation of the earth (D&C 2: 1-3).

Julie Beck explains further:
The Creation of the earth was the creation of an earth where a family could live.  It was a creation of a man and a woman who were the two essential halves of a family.  It was not about a creation of a man and a woman who happened to have a family.  It was intentional all along that Adam and Eve form an eternal family. . . .  That was the plan of happiness.

The Fall provided a way for the family to grow. . . in numbers and grow in experience. . . . The Atonement allows for the family to be sealed together eternally. . . .  The plan of happiness and the plan of salvation was a plan created for families.  I don't think very many of the rising generation understand that the main pillars of our theology are centered in the family.
You know how the question, "What Would Jesus Do?" had it's little fad several years ago?  I mean it's a good thing to ask yourself, but it did have a popular time there.  Similarly, over the last year or so when trying to answer a question, I've also considered, "What does this do to the family?" or "How does this affect the family." 

By applying that question, you can see why the LDS Church answers the way it does concerning gay marriage, immigration, or other topics.  If the issue doesn't promote families, you can bet the LDS Church will not be in favor of it.

Anyway, awesome article.  Thanks for sending it along, Bridget!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

When You Feel Inadequate as a Mother

Again, my friend Bridget sent me a link to "When you Feel Inadequate as a Mother" by Claudia T. Goates.  I liked that one.  It's been a little while since I read it, but I must be in the adolescence stage of motherhood since I'm always trying to find things to help me feel good about staying home!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Julie Beck's Address from BYU Women's Conference

I wanted to jot down my thoughts after reading Julie Beck's talk from BYU Women's Conference.

First of all, I love Sister Beck.  I think she's great.  She says it like it is.

Secondly, I was quite amazed at how the things she said in her talk very much paralleled some of the ideas in Passionate Housewives Desperate for God.

Thirdly, things that stood out:
Let us talk now about how we choose to walk with the Lord. First of all, we have to know what our responsibilities are and how to fulfill them. We know that, as women of God, this is a time when we need an increase of faith and personal righteousness. Never at any time in the world have we needed more faith from the women of God. . . .  The kind of faith that creates miracles and calls down the powers of angels and heavenly help. That kind of increase of faith and personal righteousness will strengthen us. Never at any time in the history of the world have we needed stronger families and stronger homes.
To be an effective lioness we need to prioritize or we lose power (the power to carry out our missions in life).  Sister Beck suggested categorizing into essential things, necessary things, and nice-to-do things.  This reminded me of Dallin Oaks talk, Good, Better, Best -- something I'm always struggling with!  Along those lines, I've had a couple friends say lately how they need to focus more on their kids, their husbands, their scriptures, their prayers, the temple, but it's so easy to get caught up in school and other worthwhile, non-essential activities.

Essential Things (for our salvation)
  • Personal revelation
  • Scriptures
  • Prayer (with a paper and pencil)
  • Pondering
  • Fasting
  • Sharing the gospel and your testimony
Necessary Things
  • Homemaking (necessary to keep a house of order)
  • Meals
  • Being happy
  • Family Home Evening
  • Family recreation time
  • Comforting and supporting your husband "with consoling words and a spirit of meekness" and kindness (big one in Passionate Housewives) and don't ask your husband to provide you with unnecessary things you can't afford
  • Self-reliance
  • Love
Nice-to-do Things
  • Crafts
  • Hobbies
  • Recreational reading
  • Movies
  • Travel
  • Lunch with friends
Interestingly, Passionate Housewives even goes so far as to say that this "Me Time" is a myth.  They suggest just getting over yourself and serving others (essentially your family).  I do know the ladies who wrote the book do get that "me time" for "nice-to-do's" and they appreciate it when it comes, but they don't sulk over it when they don't get it.

Sister Beck suggested that our day is broken up into three shifts, and usually we can be at our best 2 - 2.5 of the 3 shifts. She encourages us to save up our energy for our most difficult shift so that it can run smoothly.  Perhaps it's when the kids get home from school and we're trying to prepare dinner.   She hopes we will have saved up some of our energy to be able to manage that difficult time of the day.

The Lioness at the Gate

I asked some friends to help me come up with a new title for Stay at Home Feminism because the word feminism is generally so disliked, and I didn't want to scare anyone away because of the word.  While up with her children one night, my friend Bridget came up with some suggestions.  One included Julie Beck's idea of a lioness at the gate guarding her family.  I loved it!  It's catchy, it's powerful, it's feminine.

The intent of the title is not to conjure up thoughts of "I am woman, hear me roar," but to remind us all that ". . .women are like lionesses at the gate of the home. Whatever happens in that home and family happens because she cares about it and it matters to her. She guards that gate. . . ."  If there are influences coming into our homes, though, that threaten us and our families, I certainly hope we'll roar back and do our best to get them out.

Read more about being a lioness from Julie B. Beck here.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

New Name and New URL

OK, so it looks like 75% of you out there (3) like The Lioness at the Gate title and 25% of you (1) like It's OK to Stay Home. . . Really.  I know it's a very pathetic sample, but because this blog is in its most likely eternal infancy, and I like the lioness name, too, I think I'll swap it.

Since everyone hates the word feminism, I'm going to change this URL to http://latg.blogspot.com/.  Get it:  The Lioness at the Gate?

I'm sorry, I'm a bit sarcastic tonight.  I know not all of you hate the word feminism, but I don't want to make anyone feel evil for looking at a blog with the word in its URL.

Not sure when the change will occur, but hopefully soon.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Join the Resistance

Apparently there's a new exhibit over in Europe portraying Hitler not as a man who led much of Germany astray, but as a man who represented the feelings of many Germans at the time.  I caught a little bit of NPR this morning where they were talking about the subject.  Something struck me: although these may have been some of the general feelings at the time (that it was okay to hate people and do horrible things to them), some people still resisted.  These people put their lives on the line to save others.

Then I realized, is this not like pornography today?  Although it may appear to be generally accepted in American culture (look at Hollywood and other media), not everyone buys it.  We have to resist.  We must voice our concerns that we want to maintain a "higher community standard."  We must be a vigilant lioness and protect our families from the scourge of pornography. 

I could go into an explanation of why pornography is harmful or why being "prude" on the issue is a good thing, but I don't have time for that.  I've heard the time is now to stop being shy about this issue.  We have to speak up against it and win this battle.  

Join the resistance.

 11/9/10:  Haha.  Did you like how I wrote that all propagandishly?

Anyway, I thought I'd add something on how to join the resistance.  A few groups/sites I've come across recently:

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Everything You Wanted to Know about Polygamy

I don't know if the topic of polygamy even belongs on this blog, but I do know that several of us who enjoy discussing the issues on this blog have also tried to figure out that whole polygamy thing.  Evan read me Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Plural Marriage* (*but were afraid to ask) from the FAIR site one night while I was sewing.  It was quite interesting.

You might enjoy it, too.  Quite a lot of good research there.

11/15/10.  After reading Julie Beck's talk on Teaching the Doctrine of the Family, I think I now have even more understanding of why early Mormons practiced polygamy.  If you lived in a society where your ultimate goal was to have the blessings of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (great posterity and being sealed in the temple), and you could only get that through being married and having children, wouldn't you do all you could to be married and have children?

At that time, from what I understand, there were more female members of the church than males.  Therefore, there wouldn't be enough men to go around.  Also, what if a husband died?  What if a husband left?  The natural answer could be polygamy:  it provided the benefits of family life to those who wanted it.

As Joseph Smith was trying to restore all things to a modern church, polygamy would naturally be one of those things he would ask about.  Maybe God said, go ahead and try it -- although Biblical polygamy seemed to be somewhat culturally based -- because it had the potential to bless the lives of many so they could enjoy the blessings of family life on earth.


So why is this topic of polygamy so intriguing to me?  I love history.  I minored in it.  I volunteer as a historical interpreter where I "interpret" at a polygamists home (although we don't emphasize polygamy; we focus on daily pioneer activities).  I also have at least two absolutely fantastic great-something grandmothers who were second wives, and I just wonder what they thought about all of it.