Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Self-defining in the Negative

I'm reading No Excuses : 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power by Gloria Feldt. In the third chapter she talks about how women often deny their own power, intelligence, abilities, etc. We often define ourselves by what we aren't, by why we aren't good enough rather than what we have and who we are. There is quote from Marie Cocco that says, "when Cheerios advertise, the don't say, 'Of, I'm not cornflakes,' do they?" as silly as that analogy is, it rings true. So much of my guilt comes from defining myself by what I am not, based on some random cultural/religious expectations that I dion't even like. I'm not domestic,  don't have kids, I don't want kids. Even when I do define what I am, I often feel I should be ashamed of or apologize for being that way. I'm ambitious, independent, passionate, outspoken, and I shouldn't be.

Cocco attributes women's negative self-definition to the fact that for generations women have been powerless, have been defined by outsiders, and there work has been ignored or mocked. Part of the feminine wound is to not feel good enough, and to feel as though how we define ourselves comes from an external source. As a Mormon, my role as a women has been defined by men or women who buy in to the male party line. The male leaders of the church are constantly telling women how important they are, but only within the confines of the traditional self-sacrificing wife/mother/homemaker role, and the largely unacknowledged service in the church. We are defined as nurturing, sacrificing, self-effacing women who put aside all needs and wants for family, who don't want power or recognition, and who obediently follow the men in their lives. The only other definitions offered are the single or childless woman who serves selflessly in the church until a man comes along, or the feminist who is one of three enemies of the church, along with intellectuals and homosexuals. Even education is set up only as a means to support yourself or family if absolutely necessary. With all that swirling around every Sunday for most of my life, maybe it's no wonder I have guilt issues.

So, what to do this problem? Step one would be to acknowledge my right and ability to define myself, and to use it. One my better days I like my passionate, intelligent, outspoken self, and use those things in causes I feel are important. Often I feel guilty after the fact, and guilt can stop me from moving as far foresees as I want to. Hopefully awareness of this can help me move even with the guilt and eventually get rid of it.

1 comment:

  1. I found myself nodding and smiling at so many points in this post. I especially love your second paragraph. I'm glad you notice things that others don't.