Sunday, June 5, 2011

I'm justa girl

I've learned to avoid telling people I ever had anything to do with the church. You get a stigma. A lot of you will get that. I fear a particularly stinky kind for myself. You guys, my husband was born into the church. I chose it.

But because he was born into it, there are situations I can't get out of, attitudes I can't avoid. His family is pretty awesome with regard to our leaving, but there's one member who--try as he might!--can't let go entirely. Every now and again he has a comment. It usually doesn't bother me.

But the attitudinal issues--those bother me. The misogynistic crap is so subtle, but it's there and I've always felt it but I've always dismissed it because it's so subtle and, y'know, maybe I'm just being sensitive. I don't know if anyone outside the culture and at all unfamiliar with it would sense it as it's redressed in names like "values" and "virtue" and "faith" and "humility" and "modesty" so that even women don't see it.

We attended a little get-together at my FIL for my SIL's 8th grade graduation this past weekend. As my FIL and my husband are both teachers, they talk quite a bit about issues and general experiences. Now, I didn't necessarily grow up wanting to be an English teacher, but it has always been on my mind. If it wasn't, I wouldn't have tutored and enjoyed it so much. In high school I wanted to be a writer, but I was aware enough to know that wouldn't work as a day job so I considered being an editor or proofreader, working in the publishing industry.

For a long time post-church I told myself and anyone who would listen that I didn't think I could teach, that I didn't have the ability to handle the emotional and mental issues associated with it. Because I wouldn't let it go (I was waiting for someone to assure me I'd be fine--yay passive-aggression!), others simply shrugged and agreed--which made my insecurity worse. I had just spent the last decade being told ("encouraged") that I couldn't do what I wanted to do. It's been quite the process redefining myself. I'm getting there, but it's slow.

So I finally decided last summer that I was going back to school with purpose. The difference in my motivation is amazing. I finally believed I could do something and I've done all the annoying crap so far in order to do it. I took biology--biology. I've overcome a lot of fears just in the last year to keep going. Now I'm in summer school. I'm happier when I'm studying.

But not everyone is all that supportive. More than I thought are, but there are the cynics. They surrounded me yesterday.

"So you wanna be a teacher, huh?" a family member--also a teacher--said.


(insert loud laughter here)

It could be because the climate is so godawful right now that only an insane masochist would even entertain the thought, but I know this mindset. I know my husband used to have it. Kids, I could tell a few stories and they're all influenced by church doctrine and teachings regarding women--not girls! women--and their place. "I'd rather you wouldn't wear that." "Don't go on a walk by yourself."

I mean, girls.

So the laughter also stank of condescension and it didn't help that the conversation stopped there. They weren't interested. But, he did bring it up again later. "So what do you want to teach? Elementary?"

Because, as many of you know, women are best at teaching elementary if they're going to teach at all (really, if a mormon woman has to work, she can be a secretary or a teacher so I'm already playing into this). And let's not forget that just moments before I overheard a conversation regarding elementary school teachers--they're amazing people and a special brand and omg so glad they're there, but their university program doesn't demand as much of them.

He backed up pretty quickly after I scrunched up my face and...well.

Every time I was asked about school my responses were met with snideness. Even DILF (i'm struggling with this. he's uncomfortable with actual names but i grow tired of "my husband" and i think "DILF" is funny)--ANYWAY, DILF, who usually sets me straight when I'm being irrational--and god knows I can be when I'm angry and hurt--agreed that there were some major you're so cute *pet* now get in the kitchen overtones going on.

Seriously. I need some good returns for these stupid comments next time. When we got home I just wanted to ball up and cry and punch something.

I'm not doing this for them, to prove anything to them. If I was I wouldn't have come even this far. But, you know, it would be nice to have a bit of respect.


  1. What do they do for a living? Is it something so unbelievably awesome and necessary to society that they feel they can laugh at a teacher?

    Seriously. Every time I find out what someone has to do in the course of their job, it's always hideously more involved that I ever imagined. The fact that small-minded, unimaginative, people laugh is just another reason to pity them.

    Just remember what Mr. T would do, and pity the fool.

  2. He's a teacher, too. There were two teachers in the house at the time. Like I said, maybe he was making fun at any idealism I may have (because it isn't exactly the job sane people who are in-the-know may want), but combined with everything else it just dripped with condescension.

    Pity the fool, yeah.

  3. Perhaps you should have asked him if he was worried that you were going to take his job away.

  4. Ew, Lisa, I don't know how you deal with it. I think I would have gone ape-shit on that guy. Burned some bridges. Maybe ended up in the county jail with assault charges.

    Geez, I don't wanna sound like a patsy, but judging from the stuff you post here and on facebook, you're going to make a damn good teacher. And, FYI, I always loved my English teachers most.

  5. I agree with Priscaknits :) And Erin. You'll be an amazing teacher. And teach some girls that they can do whatever the hell they want to do with their lives.

  6. Yes, speaking as a "secretary" who wishes she had done more (but didn't because of the Mormon mindset), I applaud you for your ambition. If I had been in your place yesterday, I would have asked that person who laughed what the laughing was about, and confronted him/her about it. But then, that's me now... not me 30 years ago (and I think that's how much younger you probably are than me). I've found as I've gotten older that I care less and less what anyone thinks of me. Just being me, for myself. Good feeling.

  7. You know what, Diane, next time I think I will.

    I don't know why I didn't think to in the first place. For some reason, even after everything, I'm always caught off guard.

    Erin and Kate: <3 Thank you so much. That means a lot to me. I hope to live up to that.

  8. Last semester my roommate and I were walking to class. We held the elevator for a guy and he quickly decided to start making conversation. He asked us what class we were going to and after we responded with "Strategic Culture and Analysis" the guy said "Oh so I'm assuming you guys are FCHD majors?". Being political science majors and staunch feminist democrats, we were horrified. At Utah State the Family Consumer and Home Development major consists of a 95% female majority. Although a very interesting and useful major, many women go into this program with the goal of getting married and having children (I work at an alumni call center and I've never once talked to an FCHD graduate that wasn't a stay-at-home-never-been-employed parent). We politely corrected the elevator man and went on our way. The very next day I was alone in the elevator and the same guy gets on. Not remembering me elevator man asks me what class I'm going to. I told him I was going to my Latin American Government and Politics class and then my Arabic class right after. He instantly said, "Oh, so I'm assuming you're an FCHD major?". Furiously, I looked him straight in the eye and asked, "No, do you just assume that because I have a vagina??". Although that kind of response was blunt and very shocking to the poor peter priesthood, it got the point across. Although it could be considered rude (especially to your in laws) I think it was effective in that it called him out on his behavior and forced him to actually think about why FCHD was his natural assumption. Although he was embarrassed, he had to fish for an excuse for his assumptions in order to not seem like a chauvinistic prick. When he couldn't find a legitimate reason for thinking I was an FCHD major he was forced to face the fact that he was not only being offensive but also slightly misogynistic. I honestly think the comments will stop if you call your family members out while also giving them a chance to defend their thoughts.

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  10. I struggle with this too. I grew up with very supportive parents and no sense of limitations because I was a girl. Honestly, until I got to BYU, I had never really felt/recognized any sexism directed at me. I got out of there pretty quickly. But, then I married a wardy whose family is nothing like my own and they have never made much of a secret about their disapproval of my non-SAHM ambitions. When I encounter chauvinism in the non-LDS realm, it's usually fairly direct, making an equally blunt response obvious and warranted. But, my LDS in-laws are always passive-aggressive about it. That makes me feel pretty powerless because if I then come back with a strong, direct response, I look/feel like a jerk. That passive-aggression gives them plausible deniability so they can then accuse you of over-reacting, mis-interpreting, or being too sensitive. It sucks. I'm getting to be comfortable with being a jerk when others are jerks to me first. I think that's fine.

    But, I also like Miss Victory's idea of calling them out by giving them an opportunity to defend their opinions and assumptions. I'm going to try that.

    Good luck! I feel ya!