Tuesday, March 3, 2009

I'm a Female's Feminist

***Hannah did the research for me, maybe that is why she is going to grad school, and found out that someone already got the term 3rd-Wave, and it means a lot more than I want my brand of Feminism to mean. So, I'm changing the name to Female's Feminist. But not in the post yet because I don't have time to go through it right now.***

As requested, here you go... As a 3rd-wave feminist I reserve the right to expose my pregnancy brain.

I started questioning my feminist leanings a few months ago when Justin came into bed and told me that he would be willing to hyphenate, and change Reuben's name to include mine. If he had done that when we got married, or even when I gave birth to Reuben I would have gone out the next day and made the name changes official, but Reuben is still only a Cook in the government's eyes.

I struggled with taking the Cook name. Nothing against the name, or the people who have it, I just didn't understand why I had to give up my identity to take on this name that didn't describe me at all. I wanted the man, not the name. There were a few reasons why this was so hard for me. I married the December before my last semester of college, and in that semester had teachers who already knew me as Brecken Reasor, so it wasn't like I could make a clean break from my name (if I wanted to). Brecken Cook had not done any of the work in the previous years to earn that BA, so I had no motivation to walk in graduation as a Cook. I prided myself that I was the only Brecken Reasor people would ever meet, and while Brecken is still an uncommon name, my chances of being one of a kind went down when Cook became my last name. My sisters and I are the last Reasors in our line, dad being the only son. Also, my name would be "Breck Can Cook," which I can, but I didn't want to be defined like that.

I didn't get why it had to be me who changed my name, at the very least it should have been both of us, we were both taking someone else into our life, why not both take the name of that person. Justin didn't take my concerns seriously, I married him anyway, but it really did bother me that he expected me to change my name, that he thought it would be easy for me to do that, and that he wouldn't consider changing his name. (After five years his heart has softened, so do not fear that I still have raw feelings about this issue.)

I waited until the last possible second to change my name on my social security card, and a few months after that to change my drivers license. My diploma does say "Brecken Reasor Cook." I did all this because I could see it was hurting Justin's feelings, and because I didn't want confusion in the future about our children's name.

So, I am a feminist that gave in on the name situation, but married someone who eventual came to understand my opinion and concern about it, and will do something about it once it is in the budget, or maybe not.

Then, I read this entry at Segulah. In it, the author describes how she patterned her life after counsel she received as a young woman, with a tone of regret. I was sad for her that she gave up on her real education goals to follow the counsel that could have been interpreted differently. My first thought was, a patriarchal blessing is only counsel to the individual who receives it. My second thought was, I am thankful that I was never taught that I should neglect my education, by my parents, or my church leaders. My third thought was what the counsel in my patriarchal blessing is, there is a whole paragraph in my blessing that discusses my education and career. I have always had a hard time committing to "what I want to be when I grow up." Either I wasn't sure internally, or when I thought I was sure the powers that be made sure it wouldn't work out. So, I still have large questions about this promised career of mine, but it drove me to stay "steadfast" in my education, and to feel like I needed to, and could work and be a mother at the same time.

Because I thought for years that I would be a professional woman, I have deep rooted feelings about equality for women in the professional world. I think qualification has nothing to do with gender, and neither should pay bracket. I think women should have the right to earn what they deserve, and sue to get that amount no matter when they find out they are getting paid less then they should. I think that they have the right to get the jobs that they are qualified for. I think that people, especially other women, should never judge a women for her choices when it comes to careers. And, I think that women deserve the same amount of respect that anyone else would get.

Well, I worked. I got paid horribly, and was never given adequate raises to match my growing experience, and did what I had to do to attempt to balance my work with my new baby once Reuben arrived. It was horrible. I lost my desk and window once I made the deal to work from home a few days a week, which made going back to work even worse. I would leave after the 4:30 AM feeding, worry about Reuben all the way to work, because he didn't take the bottle well, and some days Justin had to leave him with friends, or cart him around to class and work. I'd get to work at 5:15, and work like crazy, the whole time wishing Reuben was getting the attention he needed. I would try to skip lunch so I could leave a half hour earlier, but that became a problem with HR, and I had to take 20 minute breaks to pump, which added an hour to my stay at work. I'd bite the heads off of anyone who tried to make me stay later than I planned. I'd cry the whole hour drive home, I'd sob uncontrollably if there was some kind of traffic issue. I'd get home with a stress head ache, and nurse Reuben who would latch on and switch from breast to breast until 9 o'clock when he finally fell asleep. I was exhausted, spread to thin, not good at either of my roles. And then I made the decision to quit.

My work from home a few times a week privileges were revoked, which made me really mad. They did nothing to try to replace me so I could train, and they moved me even farther from the team so I really felt like I was wasting my heart ache, time, and energy trying to finish out those last few weeks.

I got a freelance job editing for BYU Independent Study, but it wasn't perfect because when I had a job I had to work way to many hours than I could find. And then I was offered a job working from home for a different department at my last job. I accepted it, because I was pretty sure I could do 8 hours a day from home, and I was offered a significant raise (for something I was way less qualified to do then editing). I did that two years, I got very little sleep. I wasn't working to my full potential as a professional, or as a mother, and not even working on those wife duties. With the move to New York, it was just too much to do emotionally, I didn't like my job, I didn't like that I wasn't as good as I could be, I didn't like what I saw my work was doing to Reuben, I didn't like being tied to meetings and being trapped in our tiny apartment, I didn't like feeling guilty asking Justin to take care of Reuben and me when he got home instead of doing his homework, etc. So, we decided that I would quit and work on being a better mother and wife.

But, because I had that career fear in the back of my head I felt like I had to be able to tell people a job when they asked. So, I chose teaching musikgarten. Well, after training and materials, I've made a total of 450 dollars this year. I do love teaching, but it ruins my tuesday nights and wednesdays, and makes wednesday night pretty difficult because Reuben is thrown off and really crabby. With the baby coming in September I still have to decide if I am capable of continuing. And, while I really believe in the program, and feel like I do a pretty good job, the biggest reason I am thinking I should stick with it is so that I have some kind of "job," even if it is not lucrative.

I've decided, I used to be a feminist when it came to careers, but I found out that I, myself, can't do it all. The balance was impossible to find, even in the perfect situation of working from home every day, and the even more perfect situation of being my own boss. I don't think women can do it all, unless God adds His strength because there is just no other way for the woman support herself and children. I miss knowing that I put the food on the table. I am terrified that I wouldn't be able to support myself if something horrible happened. I hate knowing we have to ration the milk because once we run out of money for the month we ran out of money. I hate knowing that we have no cushion if Justin can't find a job in May. I hate feeling like it was my inability to "do it all" that got us here in the first place. If only I was stronger, or could function on no sleep, or could deal with an attention-starved child who never got to go to the park because mommy had to work.

But, to tell you the truth quitting has been the best thing that has ever happened to me. I love playing with Reuben. I love taking him to the park. I love play group. I love reading to him. I love snuggling with him and watching movies. I love not having a computer on my lap at all times. I love only having one deadline a week (although I am pretty sure I would love having no deadlines even more.) I feel like I have the energy, and emotional strength to do what I am really meant to do. I feel like this is the time in my life where I can be a wife and mother, and should not have to feel guilty (although I do). I have no doubt that I will work on finding and building that career someday, but its not something I have to do when I am needed somewhere else.

And this brings me to my "3rd Wave of Feminism" Theory. I'm not the only one who knows you have to make a choice as a woman, and I'm not the only one that think either choice is fine.

It seems that my generation has a new definition of Feminism. The suffragettes fought for the right to own property and vote, so women had a voice, so they could support themselves, so they wouldn't have to marry a man just to live. With the 2nd Wave in the 70s it was more career and child-bearing oriented, but still so that women could have the right to support themselves, with or without a male counter-part. And now, I think we have entered a 3rd Wave. Women have most of the rights they need and deserve, and the things that we still see problems with are easily discussed and on the way to being resolved. That has given us the right to choose to be the kind of woman we want to be. If a woman wants to be professional she can choose that life and make it work. If she wants to be a mother she can choose that life and make it work. I think we've learned that the "do it all" mentality doesn't really hold true, but we 3rd Wavers are okay with choosing what we want to do, or doing what fate puts in our path, and doing that really well. The reason I think its a wave, and not just me, is the return to "hand-made," the popularity of cute aprons, the resurgence of knitting, sewing, cooking, and baking. Its all over the internet, and not just Mormon Mommy Blogs.

I think this 3rd Wave of Feminists is healthy if: Girls are always encouraged to get an education in what really interests them. If it is Marriage and Family Relations, great, but a girl should never feel like that is what God wants them to do, if it isn't want she wants to do. We, as women, have to refuse to bicker over the career woman verses the home woman choice. I found, being one of the few working mom's in a ward in Utah, that the hurtful things said came from places of jealousy, blindness, and pride. There is just no place for women to judge each other, there are too many factors that you will just never know. We, as women must do the best we can possibly do at what we chose to do, or what fate puts in our path, and not be afraid to change our choice if we need to. We as women need to make sure that we keep the rights our fore mothers fought for. We need to respect the hard choices we as women have to make. We need to worry a little less about what society thinks, and a little more about what is right for our own lives. And, we need to respect the sacrifices that women make, regardless of what those sacrifices are.

Then, we had a nice conversation at book club, discussing Well-behaved Women Seldom Make History, and I felt even more like I wasn't making up this third wave of feminism thing. It felt like we were all the same page, or in the very least could easily understand the page if we weren't all the way on it yet.

So, I'm going to start calling myself a 3rd-Wave Feminist, and I think I can do that without any question. And, I'm betting most of you could too.


sallysue said...

I should be doing homework right now, but I don't want to forget to expound on this later!

So, I've been thinking a lot about agency, and how, when we are at a point where you were/are at, where you could do something well, and suceed, you CHOOSE to not do it, it is so very very powerful. My thoughts are still muddled and inarticulate, but inline with what you're saying.

It's something I've been dealing with a lot, because I some day, too want to be a wife and mother, but haven't had the opportunity - is school even worth it at this level, if I'm just going to give it up? (Stupid Mormon culture!!) But we know that we don't give anything up - we just choose different paths. And usually we will find how these paths will once again intersect, because God really truly loves us, and wants us to be happy and progress.

Okay, done for now.

Go Third Wavers! :)

Tammy Lorna said...

The other day, I was talking to my assistant at work about where she sees herself professionally in the next 5 and 10 years (it was review time), and she asked me where I wanted to be. I told her that really, I just hoped to be a stay at home mum. She was absolutely shocked. She had no idea I felt that way, and she said 'but you have such a great career'! I've been thinking about this all a little lately. I've been thinking about the boy in grade 12 who told me he thought my 'homemaking dreams' were a complete waste of a life for someone who had my talents and smarts. I've been thinking about all the women who try to be good stay at home mums, but who struggle because they'd really love to be having a career, or because they feel like they should be having a career as well. I think about the woman at work who feels constantly guilty about the fact that her daughter is in childcare every day because she and her husband believe they need the income of both jobs to be able to give their daughter all that life can offer her. And then I think about how quickly and happily I would give up my unexpectedly blossoming little career to be a stay at home mum. I think about the GFC and all of the money stresses that everyone has these days. I think about how important being a mother is to me - regardless of what the world may think, and regardless of how little money I might need to live on one day if I make that choice.

I've been thinking, ultimately, that there's a time and a season for everything. I've been thinking that Heavenly Father knows what's best for each of us, and that His is the only approval we really need to worry about.

I'm actually not sure if I'm a feminist at all... I think bras are too useful to be burnt, and I think home is the place where I'm most suited to serve... but I really do enjoy voting come election time, and right now - since I don't have any kids at all - I'm really grateful to have a job I love doing each day :)

xo Tammy

Lark said...

“The love of a true mother comes nearer to being like the love of God than any other kind of love.” (Joseph F. Smith, Improvement era, May 1913, 730)

I came from a widowed grandmother who had to support five children ages 6 to 16. She had begun but given up her college career to care for her crippled mother before she married. I came from the second chair of six while my mother and dad both worked. When I was 12 years old I choose stay at home and take care of my children. When I married I had a college education and a career. I was blessed to be able to sacrifice and be a stay at home mom. Which was not a popular choice at that time. My children may never understand the sacrifices it took to put them first. My sacrifices were, are and continue to be rewarded with blessings too numerous to count.

You can do it all but you should not have to do it all at the same time. When the Lord inspires your choices you can't go wrong. Even when it is hard you are doing what is right. Mothers who seek divine guidance will change the world. That guidance will be unique and individual for each family.

“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?” (Neal A. Maxwell Ensign, May 1978, 10-11)

Note: My college degree gave me an advantage as an advocate for my children.

As far as names go...can you see why I love the family tradition of give sons their mothers maiden name as a middle name?

Talyn said...

I have never considered myself a feminist, but it is STILL (3.5 years later) a little bit of a heartbreak to have lost the name Reasor. (It's just not the same as a middle name.) It's interesting to me that no one ever talks about how difficult it is to take somebody else's name, even though I'm discovering that I'm really not the only one who had trouble with it. It's like how everybody knows labor is hard, but no one seems to mention that nursing is hard too. (In my experience it was harder, and I had it easy compared to some people.)

I chose my major because that's what God wanted for me. I didn't like the classes, I didn't think the following career lived up to my potential, I didn't feel like the people in that field were intellectually stimulating. BUT, it was completely the right decision for me. He knew more than I did. I had my little tutoring on the side because there is a big part of me that is a teacher. It turns out to be a much bigger part than I ever imagined, and it needs an outlet. I plan on going back to teach part time someday, but I never thought of it as a career before. Maybe because you can't really climb the corporate ladder in public education. I just think of teaching as something I HAVE to do. It's part of me.

Right now it's being used in Primary. Once again God knew more than I did. I thought it would be hard not to attend RS. It's not. At all. In fact I think I look forward more to church now more than ever before. God gave me certain talents that can be used in a career, but are now being used somewhere else so that I can do something even more important.

I think mom's right. I might never fully understand the sacrifices she made to be my mother, but I'm starting to get an inkling. Thanks, mom.

hanner said...

Let me tell you, I think about this topic All The Time. (I can't really help it; I work at Women's Services.) I think that I have really balked at the title of "feminist" because it really leaves a bad taste in my mouth, thanks to the plethora of angry women who come to our office mistaking us for something we're not. (Also, the claims that they bring to the table smack of the mentality of the "September Six," and I think that it's dangerous ground to associate feminism and the Church in that sense. BYU just isn't very tolerant of it, and thanks to them, we can't implement policies like rape prevention education. Thanks, "feminism"!) I'm being vague because it's somewhat of an emotional issue for me... that a handful of women at BYU are ruining the "feminist" experience for me.

1) I've always wanted to change my name. Not that I hated my maiden name at all or associate anything negative with it, but I do have two brothers, one has used up all the male family names on his kids, and I think we're set. Plus, "Terrill" looks a lot like "Hamill" when I write my signature. I've also heard of women who debated combining their maiden name and their husband's name, and mine would just Hamill or Terrill anyway. I think Hannah Hamill is quite catchy, either way.

2) As for work. There were a lot of tears shed when I was deciding whether or not to go through with the whole grad school thing. Granted, I had only applied to one school, so I was trying to squelch any kind of disappointment that might arise if I didn't get in. But the two main reasons I was distressed was money and that I'd be putting off being a mom. Not that I'm going to be all that old when I start school, but I kept telling myself that it was wrong to put off kids in favor of two years of school and a year or so of working.

Luckily, I've got Robbie, who wouldn't even let me think about it that way. He told me that he'd always loved that I was so enthusiastic about learning from the time we started dating, and that he wanted me to set a good example for our kids. Frankly, seeing my mom go back to school to get her credential at age 50 really made me want to get as much education NOW as possible.

Anyway, getting into school and having that little back-and-forth in my head has really helped. Plus, my current job has made me really enthusiastic about some women's issues, and the director of my program specialized in women's history. I think that it has all fallen into place quite nicely.

3) As for the label of "third-wave feminism"... I'd be a liar if I denied that I fit in that category. Judging by the criteria (or lack thereof) that has been set forth in the past couple of decades, I agree with you that anyone can relate to that title. I've worked in a women's center, a battered women's shelter, I'm helping to put my husband through school, I'm going back to school myself. I can't deny it. I have heard a friend say to someone, "I'm a feminist. But not THAT kind of feminist," meaning the bra-burning, man-hating, non-shaving stereotype. I think it's kind of unfortunate that I have to distinguish myself from that group. But at the same time, I think that "3rd wave feminism" is all about distinguishing oneself and facing the world in their own way.

Thanks for the post, Brecken. Well-put, too.

Bob said...

What an insightful and honest post, Brecken! This was a big eye-opener for me in a lot of ways and I appreciate you for taking the time to write it.

Reasor said...

Interesting. As it turns out I was just thinking about how a few individuals with a lot of power can change the way in which women's roles are perceived by the outside world. An often these perceptions are misconceptions.

I decided that was the reason for everyone making fun of "marriage, family, and human development" majors.

This is one of my biggest peeves. For, you see, as invalid as their argument may or may not be in the beginning, they failed to realize that they mean to make fun of "Home and Family Life" majors. HFL does the cooking and sewing. MFHD does the graduate school, PHD's, research, and counseling.

hanner said...

oh and by the way, you are not making it up:


not that wikipedia is the paragon of truth but that's ok.

Mindy said...

I think I struggled when I had my first baby with quitting my job. I knew it was right, it was just hard. What I had/still have to look at is how I define VALUE in my life. What makes me feel like I am worthwhile? Is it who I am? Is it what I do? Is it productivity? Sometimes we attach our definition of value to something like work and bringing home the bacon, and then when we are doing something else that doesn't include bacon unless you're cooking it, we lose a sense of self. Sometimes we just need to re-define ourselves or adjust how we see things.
You are super woman. I have a hard enough time just feeling good everyday, taking care of my kids, making the home nice, and cooking. I can't imagine working on top of that. Some days are just rough and I haven't found the "energy and emotional strength" like you just yet. Every once in a while, I feel like superwoman too....next day I usually feel like I can't wash one more dish or fold one more piece of laundry, so I'd like you're energy. And the kids just bounce around even when I feel so exhausted. It's ironic to me that in these most precious years I am the most exhausted. I feel like I'm missing out because of sleep deprivation or hormones being messed up.

Rachel said...

I think women today are extremely blessed-- we benefit from all that groundwork that was laid for us to have the rights we enjoy today, but are lucky enough to not have to give up our femininity or more traditional roles. Maybe we can have it all over a lifetime-- just not all at once. At least, I still hold out hope. My patriarchal blessing also discusses my career just as much as being a wife and mother, so I have to anchor myself to the promise that I will eventually have those latter blessings. The thing is, we just have to respect one another and be grateful for whichever stage we're in. It helps when you have great male friends who married brilliant, strong, and capable women who blog religiously and give you that insight and inspiration. I'm part of your fan club, Brecken.