First, I want to establish that nothing I say here is about you, whether you are a male, female, feminist, humanist, or male chauvinist. It's about me, my perspective, my experiences. It isn't meant to denigrate anyone else's perspective or experiences. To be honest, it's internal and personal musing which I'm choosing to make public because it might help other people solidify their feelings on the topic, or maybe not feel alone. It will probably be boring to most people, but I'm writing it first and foremost for me. I reserve the right to change my feelings on this, as I do on anything I ever say online or off. I'm a work in progress, and have no intention of ever being a public figure or politician, so I'm free to change and grow.
I have read some, but not all, popular feminist publications. I have listened frequently and participated somewhat on feminist blogs, both LDS and non-LDS, for years. I have friends who identify as feminists, and friends who wouldn't touch that label with a 10-foot pole. Some people would say that my opinions and outlook are decidedly feminist, some would say they are grotesquely patriarchal. I've been called the entire panoply of names from both sides of the fence, and lost friends in both yards. I am also a survivor of domestic violence, a single mother, fairly well educated and reasonably intelligent. Nothing you say will change my opinion of my own intelligence, my status, or my past experiences, so don't bother. Now that we have the disclaimers out of the way (which goes to prove how much this topic feels like a minefield for me,) I welcome any flavor of polite, thoughtful discussion should this post gender any.
I do not identify as a feminist. I used to. It's not because I don't believe in anything the feminist movement supports, or because I love being oppressed since it makes me comfortable. Far from. In fact, anyone who knows me very well knows that I'm not one to be silent in the face of injustice. No, I peeled off that label in large part because of feminists. Not every brand of feminist, but those who have read every discourse on feminism, who seem to be perpetually stuck in the anger phase of feminist grief, who are determined to define the boundaries of acceptable feminism, and thoroughly bully and discourage anyone who doesn't toe the line. It was feminists who told me I'm not feminist enough.
These are feminists who resort to petitions, media outcry, and gathering numbers to support them. These are feminists who demand change. The activists, maybe. The ones who see themselves as crusaders in a holy war, fighting in the trenches. Certainly in the public and political life, they are necessary to shake things up and push people forward. Personally, I have reaped far more negative fruits from this brand of feminism than positive ones, because it is nearly impossible to adopt a feminist label without picking up baggage I don't want to carry. It has meant time and again that my feelings and opinions are shot down before I have a chance to speak them, because the lines in the sand have been drawn so sharply.
Truthfully, I feel that way about almost any label. The only label I care to adopt is that of disciple of Christ. Even though it doesn't always fit me very well, it is what I spend my energy on, what I yearn after and fight to achieve. It is the cause for which I find it worth getting in the trenches.
A lot of political activism is about drawing lines in the sand, about ridiculing those who don't agree in an effort to discredit them. It is generally about taking militant stances on ideals. But I don't want to draw lines in the sand. I want to smooth out the lines, build sand castles, and play in the surf. I don't need lines to know when I'm being violated, or to stand up for myself. I prefer to take it case by case, drawing boundaries with behavior rather than with people.
I don't want to ridicule people who don't believe in the same things I do, even if I find their ideas harmful. I prefer to listen and absorb, to try to understand their perspective. This is what makes it possible for me to draw lines with love when it is absolutely necessary. Love and consideration don't make those lines any less firm, when I need to establish them. It does free me up from border patrolling to work on what I find most important.
Don't get me wrong. Thanks to past experience, I've become very good at drawing firm boundaries. In dealing with abusive people, for example, it is often necessary to draw solid, immutable lines. They take advantage of anything less. But while they think it may be unkind to draw those boundaries at all, I can still try to be as courteous as I am firm. Those are abusers, people who willfully and consciously use and destroy other people. Could I do any less with those whose experiences have simply led them to value different ideals?
Granted, I'm not always the best disciple. I get grouchy, and frustrated. I am often weary of standing up for myself and others, or of always being asked to do more or do differently than the best I have. I am not tireless in serving the Lord, far from. But though I am among the weakest of disciples, I'd rather be a poor disciple of Christ than an excellent anything else. Rather than putting my energies into feminism, for example, I put my energies into personal ministry. That is what I am called to. Fortunately for me, those ideals of feminism which I do value are also encompassed in being a disciple of Christ.
With discipleship, I can fight for everything I value. I can be patient with all of God's children, no matter how tired I get or frustrated I feel, because God has my back, and the Spirit grants me strength when I need it most.
I'll never speak to the media on behalf of any great cause. I'll never be a famous blogger, or a big name in feminism, advocacy for victims of domestic violence, or any other great cause I believe in. But hopefully I'll be able to mend hearts and be a safe place for the wounded and grieving to heal. Hopefully I'll be able to do some small good in my sphere. That is all I could hope for.