Neat girl vs. Sweet girl…

I’ll never forget a debate van trip many years ago when a male debater exclaimed, a bit in sarcasm and a bit in surprise, that “women are people” — ummmm, yea.

This article got me a thinkin…about women my age and younger and their relationship with feminism. It’s also an interesting peek into Mormon female culture without being a negative stereotype.  What struck me about this article, besides the message that sweet girls get married early and nice girls explore the world for a few years before getting married at 25, was the way those roles seemed to be transmitted and clarified by the author’s mother.  The author is Mormon and so is her mother — those roles are both relatively acceptable in Mormon culture, so the question wasn’t exactly one of one being better than the other, but rather one of classification of the girls.

I was not raised Mormon, but Hubby was and my in-laws are a good Mormon family.  I was raised by a mom who was between first and second wave feminism… a bit too young to be among the pioneer generation (my Great Aunt Kay was a staunch first-waver), and not quite young enough to be of the “burn your bra, men suck” club… perhaps her younger sibling was that for a while…

As a result, I have a kind of different relationship to feminism than many women my age or older.  For me, feminism has been a constant message in my life — ‘you can do whatever you’d like’ — grow up, do “boy stuff” if you want etc. without the negative message about men that seems to pervade second-wave feminism.

I also learned by example that, to quote mom, “you don’t die from being tired.”  Which she said often when we’d complain about long work shifts etc… and we knew that she was speaking from example, in that she was a nurse who worked nights, weekends and holidays to support me and my sister.

Mom is also the epitome of a ‘lifelong learner’ who loves to read, think, analyze and explore the world of ideas.  I’m sure I got my philosophical bent from her.  I also know I got my book obsession from her, so she owes an apology to anybody who has ever helped me move :).

As a result of my upbringing, I see folks in different categories — Instead of “sweet girl”, I think “didn’t go to college, married young, had kids” — which many of my friends did — vs. “went to college, maybe I’ll get married sometime” — which was a choice other friends made.

Oddly enough, I’m a living example of the confluence of those categories — a “married at 21 but no kids, went back to college at 24 (I think..) — Ph.D kinda girl.”  Maybe I moved back and forth between the categories or maybe I made my own up as I went along.  Maybe I’m more like the third-wave feminists than I even see… making my own choices and getting along.

As Andy said to me last night, “remember, it’s  your life” — and, he’s right — but, the life that’s mine is the result of a lot of influences shaping me, teaching me and supporting me — so — while it’s my life to lead and make decisions about — I’m also a reflection of both my mom and my times — my feminism.

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5 Responses

  1. I love this Patty. You are so dead on. My mom was of the same era as yours i believe. They worked tirelessly to better their lives and ours because it was what they did and who they wanted their daughters to be. They were and are role models. Someone recently called me a feminist as a slam but I turned it around and said thank you! Shocked, he said “what do you mean?” ” I mean thank you! My mom raised me to be strong, independent, to think for my self and not have to rely heavily on other people. I learned that I can do anything from cooking a turkey dinner to changing the oil in a car to mending a hem.” Great blog Patty. Here’s an idea for your mother’s day blog…. She’s not June Cleaver.

  2. the beauty of feminism is having choices.
    hopefully this next generation can keep their choices and not have to compromise their sanity by feeling they HAVE TO do it all.

  3. Boy is she not June Cleaver

  4. For those of you following along, “Barb” is my mom :).

  5. Hmmm.. interesting… I suppose I’m more of a hippie girl… where do they fit?

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