August 28, 2006

Can you still be proud of me, Betty Friedan?

(I apologize for the long delay in writing. Hopefully, this entry can explain why my blog has been so paltry for the past few weeks.)

A few months ago my roommate Charlee said to me: "I'm so glad I live with such a liberal feminist."

I was a bit baffled. Me? A liberal feminist? Sure, I am a champion of women's rights and education. (I am a woman, after all.) And sure, I am an avid supporter of women's equality. (Shouldn't we all be?) But I wasn't some raving feminist lunatic who believed all men should be quarantined and shipped out to Neptune. I wasn't that kind of a feminist.

In the end, I took Charlee's statement as a compliment. I am a feminist. I love being a woman and I abhor the unequal treatment of my sex. I believe women should be pushed to go to college, to attend graduate school, and to pursue a career. I believe a woman is just as capable as a man to become a successful surgeon or to lead a Fortune 500 company. And yes, I wholeheartedly support Hillary Clinton's bid for the White House. I'm a feminist and I'm proud of it!

As a member of a conservative (and some would say patriarchal) church, I have reveled in my feminist streak. I cheer for Mormon women who are able to balance a career and motherhood. I do a jig for female BYU students who apply to graduate school. I am a card-carrying member of the Relief Society and I think more of its members should speak during General Conference. Perhaps some would label me as a black sheep, but I embrace my feminism and my Mormonism.

For the past few years, I have tried to prove to the world that I can be a feminist and a Mormon. I wanted to show people that my future did not revolve around a kitchen and a minivan. Rather, my dreams included getting a PhD and teaching at a liberal-arts college. In my free time, I would travel the world and write best-selling novels. And so, to kick off my celebration of feminism, I planned to move to Europe for a year and get my MA from the London School of Economics.

And then I met a boy. Classic story. We started dating and the question swirled in my mind, "What if I deferred for a year?" At first, I panicked. Deferment wasn't an option. I had planned on grad school in England for a year and a half. I had already signed up for classes and paid my deposit for a flat. This would be a great opportunity for me---how could I give it up for a boy?

I also became concerned about what other people would think: my best friends from high school, my PhD-toting co-workers, my relatives, my parents. They would all look down on me for sure.

I fretted for a week, bouncing back and forth between going to London and staying home. Justin refrained from swaying my opinion either way. "This is your decision," he told me, "You have to make it for yourself and not for anyone else."

I took his advice to heart. What did I really want? Both choices were good ones, but which one did I want more? In the end, I chose to defer. I knew if I went to London, I would always look back and wonder "What if?" I didn't want such a regret. With this idea in mind, the decision came easily.

Of course, I still have bumps in the road---like finding a new job---but I am perfectly content with my deferment. Granted, I will miss eating Hobnobs (wonderful British cookies) and I will miss out on the chance to see my friend Lindsey and her new baby, but I know I've made the right decision for myself.

Slowly, I have realized that my choice to defer graduate school is an exercise of feminism in its own right. I was not pressured by my boyfriend or my parents to make this choice. Quite the opposite. I was the only person who made this decision and I am the only person who controls the outcome of my life. Ironically, my choice to defer has helped me to realize that I don't have to travel across the world to prove my feminism to others. I could do it right here at home.

I am not deferring grad school for a boy. I am doing it for me.

***If you are wondering, I am not engaged. Just to be clear. :o)

8 comments:

  1. Drama! I can relate though, as you know. Glad you are making choices not based on anyone else's opinions or persuasions, but I do hope you are including the Lord! Good luck this next year in whatever you do, and London could still be in your future.

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  2. Oh yes! This decision only came after much thought and much more prayer.

    Hopefully London still looms in the future! If not grad school, then definitely for a long extended visit! It's been far too long since I've had a plain chocolate hobnob...

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  3. Can I just tell you that I think you're AWESOME?!?!

    I know it sounds weird coming from a man, but I'm also a feminist. It's funny, really, because I used to hate the feminist movement "out of principle." I was one of those people who thought feminism equated man-hater. Although I am sure that some groups of feminists hate men, I am also quite sure that feminism is composed of many various, and often contradictory sub-groups.

    The more I have learned about feminism, the more I align myself with (certain camps of) it. I think I have always been somewhat of an idealist at heart. And yet, I'm also a pragmatist. The one thing that has always been a huge issue with me is the notion of fairness and equality. I love the fact that women are slowly getting out from under the long history of male domination.

    I truly agree with you that your decision was in many ways the highest form of feminism. My mother is a stay at home mom, and I also think her decision to stay home was equally 100% feminist. She made that choice willingly. I'm sure my dad wouldn't have cared if she had wanted a career and a family. But, she chose family. I guess what I'm saying is that not all stay-at-home moms are repressed or anything.

    I think the most important thing for any person, or groups of people, is to stay true to yourself. I think it is very admirable that you did what you felt was right for you - even though it came at a high cost. After all, you can always go to London later in life.

    this comment is ridiculously long. But, I just wanted you to know that I think you're a phenomenal person, and I'm so glad we're friends. And I'm even more glad you found a nice boy-toy! ha ha. Great jorb!!!

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  4. oh yeah, I almost forgot. I think you should read Daniel Defoe's "Roxana." I'm reading it right now. It is amazing that Defoe could write something so pro-feminist at the time he wrote that book - and especially since he wrote it as a man.

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  5. Matthew4:39 PM

    It seems that some have hijacked the feminist movement to the point that most people think of it as the anti-man movement.

    I'm glad that you realize that equality means having the freedom to make whatever decision you want. Even if that means delaying/nixing your trip to London.

    Good luck with everything.

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  6. I'm sure my decision to defer grad school for a year will seem incredibly anti-feminist to a lot of people.

    I suppose this is true if you define feminism in a certain way. But I guess my definition of feminism is just that---my own definition. I feel like I can still be a champion of women's rights and equality and also make room for a fulfilling relationship in my life.

    Thanks for all of your support! It really does mean a lot.

    PS I'll have to read Roxana! I haven't read a book written before 1900 in a long time. I'm rusty!

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  7. Catching up on the blogs, here...

    And, amen! Amen to all of it! I have never regretted my choice to get married, and yet I fully plan on completing grad school at some point. I'm a smart, talented, trying-to-become-more-informed woman, and yes, by your definition, a feminist, too. Congrats on your decision!

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  8. Travis, thank you for courageously taking upon yourself the feminist label! Not enough men have the cajones to do so. I think too many are scared off by the extremist elements in modern feminism.

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