Day: September 16, 2012

Feminism and the Workforce

I am writing this using my touch typing because honestly I can’t see much.  My eyes are puffy and sore.  I’m not sure if this is normal.  I will call the doctor in the morning to find out.  I know a week to 10 days of recovery is not uncommon.

I just finished reading The Undomestic Goddess by Sophie Kinsella for the 6th or 7th time.  It is not an award winning book plot-wise but I think it is funny and when I’m sick or feeling down I reach for Kinsella’s writing every time.  I listened to it on audibook and lately I’ve had a lot of time with my audio books 🙂

So, the main story behind this book is a woman named Samantha is just about to be made partner in a prestigious corporate law firm in London.  To get to this point she regularly logs 60+ hours and never has time for social gatherings or even time to think for herself. She doesn’t know how to toast a bagel, iron a shirt or replace the bag in her vacuum. The only time she gives to herself is an occasional viewing of the Waltons for comfort.

Then through a massive mistake Samantha panics, flees to the country and ends up working as a housekeeper in a big lofty house. It is admittedly ridiculous but if you can get behind all of that fluffy plot and think about the questions Kinsella is asking, it is a thought provoking book.

It touches on one of my favorite topics- work.  Why we work, how we work, what motivates us to work, how does money, power, control figure into work?  What do we lose in work? What sacrifices are worth making for work and which one’s aren’t? How do we find that elusive balance between work and life?  These are all questions that fascinate me.

Kinsella’s book made me think about work and feminism in a new way and has left me pondering…

My entire life I was taught in school that pre-feminist women were disenfranchised (which they were) and unhappy mainly because of their unequal share and positions in the workforce.  Men had the power and money at work; therefore, they had the eventual satisfaction and happiness. By confining themselves to the home in unpaid labor, the traditional woman, could not contribute all she could to the world; thereby leaving her unhappy and unfulfilled.

I remember reading Betty Friedan:

“Each suburban wife struggles with it alone. As she made the beds, shopped for groceries, matched slipcover material, ate peanut butter sandwiches with her children, chauffeured Cub Scouts and Brownies, lay beside her husband at night- she was afraid to ask even of herself the silent question– ‘Is this all?”

I wonder if Mrs.  Friedan would have the honesty to ask this same question of a lopsided career woman like Samantha in the novel who works, works, works?   Couldn’t you make a similar list full of the daily deadening tasks of the career woman and ask the same questions at the end? I wonder what she’d think of such a problem?

In some ways the modern career woman asks the Is this all? question even more frequently than her predecessors because they attempt to do all in the work-world and at home. One commenter on this very blog said of her life:

“I feel…I don’t know…a societal pressure of sorts to make mothering a priority. As a working mom, I feel as though I have two full time jobs (and neither gets done to its full need). No one is pressuring my husband, or men in general to find a better balance between work and home”

This highly stretched living ends up leaving a lot of women feeling that they do many things but don’t do them particularly well.  I think every woman has moments where she feels mediocre because she’s pushed too far, too fast, with limited time.

When I was young (high school or college aged) I readily assumed my greatest accomplishment in life would be from my work. Nobody ever said ‘you will get your greatest satisfaction from your hobbies or from serving in the community’.  Think about it- what do we ask children about their future lives?  It’s what do they want to be someday, what do they want to do for their job.

People at church said I’d get the most fulfillment from my family but this was largely ignored as passe sentiment by the young me.  Also family is not a controllable outcome; therefore, depending on it for your contribution to the world can be a risky enterprise.  Work is at least more in our control.

In the book, Samantha finds, to her surprise,  that not working actually gives her the most joy and fulfillment- taking weekends off and having a life are what make her truly happy whether her work be in the domestic or corporate sphere.  This seems to defy everything I was taught as a young girl?  Fulfillment from the weekends? Those are just for play?

For both men and women, the world is telling us to focus on work, work, work but our hearts are almost always telling us  life, life, life.  Easier said than done.  Whether your a teacher, nurse or accountant, work has become such an overwhelming part of most modern woman’s lives.  For someone like me this is especially true as I work from home.  I think this leaves most women feeling unsatisfied with a huge part of their lives. Just the opposite of what the feminists told me.

I think feminism added another layer to the work myth by saying that great female accomplishments in the workforce would make our entire society better.  So now its not working for your own happiness but your entire sex and even all mankind. If we have a normal but necessary job it can feel like such a let down- like you haven’t done that one thing you were called on to do in this life, when you may have, just not at your paid employment.

I work hard but it is way down the list of my greatest accomplishments.  I get satisfaction from everything else in my life and that motivates me to work, not the other way around.

Maybe some women have these great empowering jobs but nobody I know.  Most work to provide sustenance and to allow them to pursue their true passions in the rest of their lives.  Maybe men already knew this for hundreds of years but they’ve had more time to evolve mechanisms to cope with the demands of work?

I’m just throwing this out there, but maybe feminism missed the mark when they focused so much on work as an equalizing force? Maybe our problem wasn’t working in the home verses working in the office but just a general lack of self-worth and recognition?  I guess we have more options now which is certainly a good thing but it also can leave women floating in a sea of undecided and unmet aspirations.

Why is it any less ennobling to dedicate one’s life to something we might not get paid for?  Does getting paid somehow eliminate the ‘Is this all’? For instance, why does having my life work be this blog seem somehow lower than what the feminist theology espoused? It has all the elements of an empowering voice, freedom of expression, and ability to influence others that the housewife role supposedly denied women.  Why does the fact it is unpaid make it any less important for a life?

I don’t think it does and I think the scores of workaholic, frazzled, stressed out women out there would agree with me.  Could it not be the saddest moment of all when you get to the top of the career world and still find yourself wondering what it was all for? I speak only in hypothetical here as I am clearly not at the top of any field or career.

It makes me glad I was taught a bigger answer to that question ‘Is it all?’, an eternal answer. My faith gives my life meaning when the world would see little value. What a great comfort that is.

That said, I still deal with deflated feelings about the workforce and my participation in it.  Anyone else struggle with this? Finding our own way to contribute can be very difficult? Do you struggle in finding value in what you do contribute, or are you left asking Is this all?

Ok. Now I will try to get to sleep and rest my poor eyes.  Got to get back to work in the morning…

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Famous Ex- Mormons

Lately I feel like I have read an inordinate number of stories about ‘famous ex-Mormons’.  These usually feature the same cast of characters from Julianne Hough to Katherine Hiegel to Amy Adams.  I feel like this is always done in an aura of condemnation-  ‘Look these beautiful people once believed and now they don’t how can it be true?’.

Rarely is it mentioned in these articles that Hollywood is not exactly a bastion of religiosity in general.   I am highly confident that a much longer list of former catholics, muslims and protestants could be collected amongst celebrities.  Perhaps these faiths are different because they can be considered active with very minimal observance and attendance but even so I’m confident the list would be just as long and dramatic.

Sometimes I feel these lists of ex-Mormon’s are meant to discredit Mitt Romney’s belief.  ‘How can he believe when all these beautiful, accomplished people don’t?’.  Couldn’t the same question be asked of all of them?  ‘How can they not believe when Mitt Romney and many other distinguished and accomplished people do believe?’.

Religion is an individual choice and the acceptance of the society at large, especially Hollywood, should have no barrings on an individuals faith and acceptance.  In fact, how sad would it be if someone believed purely because other smart and attractive people believed?  Mormonism is not a trendy lifestyle choice like say yoga or veganism to be lived for show.   Maybe you can do that for a short period of time but eventually you have to find out for yourself if it is true, and then live it, if you do.

I give most of these celebrities credit for leaving the church and then leaving it alone.  Many actually have very nice things to say about their experience with Mormonism.  Most have chosen to leave not out of extreme doctrinal differences but mostly lifestyle choices and political issues.  One website says ‘just for fun here are some famous ex-Mormons’.  I don’t see what is fun about someone choosing a religion?

There certainly wasn’t this sense of concern, amusement or scandal when President Obama chose to distance himself from his longtime pastor Reverend Wright.  This was seen by most as one man’s religious choice without any further speculations except for on the hard right.  People change religions all the time, especially in their youth, and in Hollywood where morals are challenged on a daily basis.  I just don’t get the fun or appeal of these articles?

And if we are looking at a broader history of Christianity when did defectors prove  or disprove the truthfulness of the church itself?  The celebrities or rulers during Christs’ days are the very one’s who cried for His crucifixion over the robber Barabas.  Comparatively few listened to Jesus’ messages and teachings and yet this does not have any baring on most modern Christians view of its truthfulness.  The people who did listen for the most part were simple humble fishermen and common citizens.

In fact, many would say it confirms the truths because they were challenging to live, required real change to accept?   Living the gospel of Jesus Christ has never been easy.  Why would this not be true in the modern church?  The Gospel of Jesus Christ is difficult to live because it has always been so.  It requires the whole heart because if we only give half than we only get half our potential.

The bible says “because you are lukewarm–neither hot nor cold–I am about to spit you out of my mouth.” .  Clearly, the Lord would rather have us stray than to feign half-hearted fellowship.  This is why it is perhaps no shock that most people when confronted with truth must choose one way to follow or another.

It makes me sad when I read about these people because I know what they are missing out on.  It truly is like selling your birthright for a mess of pottage.  I’m not going to presume to judge these stars and say they picked movie roles over God.  I do not know them so that may be far from truth but whatever the choice over truth, it will not matter in the end, what they have chosen. I have eternal covenants with my My Heavenly Father.  I know why I am here and that my life matters.  That is worth any worldly prize.

Anyway, I just thought I would let you all know that I couldn’t care less if a famous person is or isn’t Mormon.  My only care is the same I feel for any person who does not accept what I believe is true.  I yearn for all the world to know of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon and the Restored Gospel.  If someone believes and happens to be famous well good for them.  I would not have served a mission if I didn’t want to share my faith with others and earnestly want all men and women to believe it.

I respect all choices and have friends of many faiths. These friends have actually added to my own faith through their testimonies on our shared beliefs and their example of devotion to what they believe.  However,  their choices, and certainly the choices of some celebrities I don’t know, have no negative impact on my own religious life. So these lists of Ex-Mormons baffle me. Who cares? What are the people who publish them trying to achieve?

I guess as trivia it is harmless but it should have no affect on anyone’s view of the Mormon church or its teachings if some Hollywood starlet does not believe.  Millions of hard working men and women around the world have gained a witness of its truthfulness and that means much more to me than the dissenters who try and tear us down.   That said, if I was all alone I would still know the Book of Mormon is true and that God has confirmed this to me.  No one can take that from me.

There I said it! 🙂 (I repeat my earlier injunction that I will not post any negative comments about my church on this posting or any others, so don’t even bother.  If you have something constructive to say about what I have written I’d love to hear it).