Thursday, March 25, 2010

Manifesto Female: What I Have Learned

My older sister Page once said to me,
"I don't know what it is, but giving birth to my daughters was an entirely different experience. It's almost as if they were made out of a different essence."

That is where I want to begin.

I am writing this essay with the essence I was birthed with, the spirit that fills my body, the soul that communes with divinity. This is the part of me where I am most comfortable, though I am not always good enough to be there. This isn't an official doctrine of my church, but it is influenced by what I have studied out in my mind and heart. It is me, essentially.

Every Sunday I stand with the young women in my church and repeat a bold statement called the Young Women Theme. It starts, I am a daughter of God, who loves me and I love him . . . (read the entire theme: here).

If I believe I am a daughter of God then I believe that every woman is a daughter of God.

Every woman who has, will and now exists has characteristics of heaven. This is not restricted to those baptized in my church, this is the genesis of all women. We came from a Heavenly Father who made our female spirits receptive to hearing inspiration and revelation from a Divine Source. These powers are written in the code of our biological make-up, as well as hidden in our spirit. We may know they are there, we may not. I believe they are there.

With these powers of innate wisdom and discernment--given from God, women are capable of anything. They can create. They can destroy. They can change. They can evolve. And because of this I believe in a woman's endless capabilities, that when paired with a God (also known as a sense of self) there is no end to what a woman can choose.

She can fight injustice. She can heal from injustice. She can help other women fight or heal from injustice. She can work. She can be satisfied in work. She can find confidence. She can capture truth and live it entirely. She can rise above. She can be aware. She can find intelligence placed inside of her that no force can destroy on this earth, no matter how hard it becomes. She can listen. She can hear. She can obey. She can develop her own rules, and obey those too. Woman is clever enough, resilient enough and strong enough to find paths that weren't always apparent.

She isn't less than, or more than, the next woman or man. She is her own entity which becomes cheapened when compared to others. When following the promptings inside of her soul to do whatever is important for her own life plan she simply has no equal.

But these powers are the most potent when used to love other women. To support. To carry. Lift. Encourage. Serve. Fight alongside. And in my experience, this is also the hardest part about being a woman. There are forces at work designed to turn woman against woman in an effort to completely destroy the massive amount of good we can do when united. But I also know that I feel the strongest as a woman, when I am helping another woman, or being helped by another woman--whether she is someone I know, or a someone who lives across the world. I'd be smart to unceasingly search for opportunities to serve. (Sometimes I regrettably forget this.)

I can't write for every woman, and every woman's unique circumstance. I am not aware of every tribal, local, religious, federal policy on women around the globe. I believe a woman's ultimate goal is happiness, but I can't begin to describe what that looks like for everyone. What I want to hear from other women, is what I will give in return: We can do it. Whatever it is. We can do it. We have done it before. We will do it again and again. We contain God-given endless abilities. We are here for each other. You teach me. I will teach you. God is with us. We can, I can, you can.

We can achieve our potential as wives, we can do it as mothers, we can do it with no title (or uterus) at all. If all we aim to do in this life is discover our eternal intelligence we'd still be fulfilled beyond human capacity. I will never feel sorry for a woman who seeks the best of what this life is offering, even if what she finds doesn't look like what I have found.

Our bodies are built to be strong in principal and natural femininity. Femininity looks different on every woman-- it is the essence that sets us apart from each other, and from man. Femininity isn't about dresses, make-up or shoes, it is about fulfilling our specific female identity. Only we know what that is, but it is encoded in our bodies. It looks good on us. And sadly, the sacredness of our bodies are the most exploited entity on this planet.

But we can change that too.

Women will seek out what feels inherently best to them--the simple life, the complicated life, the busy life, the communal life. I am learning to trust this as we all share the same birthright of being female. If women want labels, so be it. As for me, Daughter of God is all-encompassing. It is as practical as buying cleaning solvent from the door-to-door salesman, to leaving an unhealthy marriage. I know the women who came before me made sacrifices, fought battles and picked hard choices. I know they were led by the same inner voice I hear today, the voice of a loving God who champions his daughters, gives them hope in all things if they seek it, and looks after them even in the darkest of places. It is impossible to comprehend just how powerful he made us. Sometimes I get a glimpse, and it sends me reeling for days.

I've always like what Emma Lou Thayne said about writing as a Mormon woman, "The pillars of my faith are still intact, but the roof has blown blessedly off the structure to reveal a whole sky full of stars."

I am a happy woman and I owe it to my Father in Heaven.

This is my essence.


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Aspen Lane Designs said...

LOVED that quote by Emma Lou Thayne! Great post. Thanks for taking the time to write it!

Mrs W said...

Dear CJane:

This is the saddest post I have read in a long time.

The realities you are avoiding with this post are harsh indeed. Is this what you say to your sister (literal or otherwise) when she comes home and tells you she doesn't earn as much as the man next to her who does the same work and sweats equal sweat? Is it just alright with (all of) you that women continue to be under valued?

I don't know about Africa or other regions and I don't know about ritual practices. What I know is that I don't get the same respect/valuation/rights/promotions/access/etc. because of my female gender. RIGHT NOW and RIGHT HERE in the US. and I am white and highly paid. I can only imagine the harshness if I were non-white or not highly educated.

You don't have to write a check and you don't have to join an organization. You just have to check your opinions and check what comes out of your mouth(s) and pen(s). The thoughts you have expressed proliferate and promulgate bad and hurtful ideas to so many of your fellow humans.

And, The Miller's: It is not rude to say so.

The Smith crew said...

First time ever commenting on your blog, and I am amazed at the comments you get on your blog! Guess I better start writing about how I feel about being a woman then I may get some action on mine!

♥jada said...

Wow! That was beautiful. Thank you for taking the time to give us this post. You have outdone yourself...I have never felt more better about my role as a woman, mother, sister, friend, and daughter of God. Thank you again!

Charity said...

To the 16 year old LDS girl:

Your comment was beautiful! :)

Cjane - Thanks for a great, thought provoking post. Agree or disagree it was great reading all these comments!

Anonymous said...

I haven't commented on this post yet but I have read all the comments.

I think those of you on here who have told cjane to go back to her lighter posts and to stop posting about deeper things are so RUDE, RUDE, RUDE. (essentialy you are tearing her down and saying that her life experiences, thoughts and feelings about life and the world don't matter.....seriously???)

It is when feminists make demeaning comments like that, that I don't want to call myself a feminist (because you taint the name so badly by the way you put people down and think you are so far above everyone else...because some how you think you know more or do more than other women) I consider myself an "ist" I am fighting to make the world fair, safe and better for both genders.

To the people who keep making comments about lds women having great lives and "living behind lace curtains" I say....seriously?? we all live in this world...none of us are immune to the storms of life. There is abuse/neglect/affairs/divorce/poverty...the list could go on and on. It is all around us, it is us experiencing it.

One thing that bothers me as a mother of daughters and SONS is that boys in the world are the victims of injustice AS WELL. Male children need us to fight for them as well so in all our GIRL power efforts lets not forget the BOYS either.

Joanna said...


First of all- love your blog and love the discussion that these posts have generated. This debate has forced me to think really hard about where I stand on feminism and has left me wanting to make a difference. If this discussion moves some of us to action then it's worth a few snarky posts back and forth, right? You are brave to put yourself out there. I was one of those saddened by your original post but I think I get you now. In my humble opinion you are a feminist in all but name only. You don't care for the label which is fine. I agree they can be limiting. But many of your readers, myself included, identify as feminist. I think it was the tone of the first post. If I peel the layers back on my gut reaction, I think I was hurt. I felt like you were saying feminism was a bad word. And therefore feminists are bad. I'm sure that is not what you meant but that is how it felt.

Here is an article that I read just a few minutes ago regarding continued discrimination in the workplace. As a writer yourself, I thought this might resonate a little.

Keep putting it out there lady. And good luck with your new bundle!

Kerri said...

OK, I have to be honest. I took you off my google reader after the feminist post. It really bugged me. But you popped back on (I don't know why, but that happens periodically) and I have to say this was gorgeous gorgeous gorgeous.

So thanks. I'll be popping back in. I loved this.

redhenblackrabbit said...

dear c jane. thank you for taking yourself seriously for this one. i know you naively didn't expect the enormous response you got from post # 1. i am sorry that you got some hateful emails but i honestly believe that that post DESERVED to be taken seriously. so does this one. i really appreciate you revisiting this topic. i am a feminist. i do stay at home with my baby and cook dinners at night. you've made me think more about feminism than i have in a while. thank you. i think cultural awareness of the struggles faced by many of our sisters in this country and around the world is the next step for many of us. try visiting amnesty internation or kiva's website. seems like as good a start as any.

Iv said...

Bravo for being present in the discussion! I'm grateful that you allow & read comments and appreciate each of your responses. I agree that this post didn't correlate with the first how I'd hoped, in respect to "what you'd learned" regarding feminism (it seems impossible that you could write the first post in the same light after reading all those insightful comments) but it was lovely. I do agree that much of it could be said about any human, not necessarily female. I too hoped you would use your platform to dispel certain misunderstandings about the term "feminist" that seem to deter many from supporting its causes, which you truly seem to be in line with (misperceptions that were certainly dispelled for me from the 600 comments.) A few things I came away with:
1. I am grateful for the call (and response) for real suggestions as to how to actually make a difference to suffering women outside our own spheres. (We love tracking "our peoples" progress on too, with our kids.)
2. I concur it would be insightful to hear yours and others' thoughts on Half the Sky - just got on the hold list at the library for it.
3. To the 16 yr old LDS girl; what a mature, inspirational comment from such a young person - thank you! Ditto to the 14 yr old rebuttal to "what the church does to women" and your observation of the young LDS guys in your class. I feel the same way.
4. Megan, you continue to impress with your respectful, honest, and fact supported comments. THANK YOU. I agree with so many of yours & Elizabeth's insights.
5. I loved hearing Cynthia's perspective on "first world countries" and her desire for international discussion/action with likeminded women. I agree - how can we harness all this heartfelt desire into some real action/progress? (Cynthia & CC, I think you'll agree with me on this next point.)
6. I feel strongly that those of us who are blessed/privileged (with freedoms from most of the injustices many women around the world face every day) are PRECISELY the ones who should feel a responsibility to take more action in aiding those who aren't. Those who can't. They NEED our help, and it seems entirely wrong to turn a blind eye because it doesn't affect us or seems too challenging or far removed.
So let's follow the links, ladies, and do something about it. Yes, thinking, discussing, and educating about the problems/needs is valuable, but unless acted upon can too often be short-lived and crowded out in such busy lives we modern women lead. Thank you for all the links and advice, please keep them coming!

Lil said...

To be honest, all these women commenting in awe to this post which is more a preach than a thesis is very frightening to me... Reminds me why your Church scares me :(
Like for the former non-feminist post the comments are very strinking !

Anonymous said...

re: Katie P. and cjane

Ok, so I was the one who made the "lace curtain" comment. Well, I'm anonymous so I guess fessing up doesn't mean much. Anyways, I do want to apologize because I realize now it was a snarky comment.

I have no doubt that you and other SAHMs have gone through real trauma. My point was that it seems as though a lot of the posters here who are against calling themselves feminists are SAHMs. And because they aren't out in the workplace they don't really FEEL the need to be a feminist. Lots of gender equality issues (equal pay, sexual harassment in the workplace, access to safe and affordable child care) just don't effect them so they chose to act as though they don't exist. It's that ignorance that I take issue with.

If they lost that protection their husbands provide they might regret not calling themselves a feminist. They would see how much we have done for them and would hopefully be thankful. And SAMHs should also be knowledgeable about gender equality issues worldwide and want to join feminists in trying to stop it.

Awareness of all these issues is what's critical. By watching my own mother throughout the years, I know that child-rearing, keeping a home, volunteering/community service and being a loving wife is the most important job in the world. I do believe that for the most part SAHMs are the backbone of our communities and society at large.

My mother did not have the time to start a foundation or the money to regularly contribute to feminist causes. But she was always well-read and aware of these issues and she always proudly called herself a feminist. And she passed her support of the feminist cause on to both her daughter and son.

Dawn said...

I have printed this out and will save it and share with students here on the University where I work. There is a women and religion class that i think would really benefit from this perspective. On a selfish note, I must add that in a previous post you didn't identify yourself as a feminist. However, I must say that if I were to write my own feminist manifesto then I would borrow heavily from this post. Thank you for your insights.

Katie Price said...


I appreciate your apology. Just realize that while I am a SAHM, my mother nor my mother-in-law had the chance to do that. My father -in-law died of cancer and left six kids, and my father walked out on my mom and left her with six kids. So I understand both points of view, trust me. It's just a little insulting when someone implies that I don't understand these issues because I do stay at home. I made sure I was educated and had my degree so that IF something horrible did happen to me or my family, I was able to take care of us. I've seen death, divorce, and simply the need to work to make ends meet. I do all I can to help women in my neighborhood with their kids when they either choose or have to go back to work. I promise most of us are well educated on these things.

We all need to be really careful about how we judge people when we only see a small part of them on the Internet. And I for one, don't talk alot about the trials in my life, so it may seem that my life is "peachy". But it's not always that way.

Anyway, thanks for the apology:).

Suvi said...

I know you have a million comments on this already (well, 633) but I had to comment. I love what you said in this post and you write beautifully about women. I totally agree with you that we women are amazing. To me, this is feminist writing-- acknowledging the greatness of women. Equality, as so many people have pointed out, isn't about being identical at all! And feminism isn't about putting down the feminine but rather about making opportunities for women to be acknowledged and appreciated for ALL they can do in their COUNTLESS roles.
Here's one of my favorite quotes of all time from Elder Talmadge in 1914: "The status of women in the world is a subject of present-day discussion and an element of current social unrest; it is, however, by no means a new topic... Woman has suffered the greatest humiliation during periods of spiritual darkness, when the Gospel of Christ was forgotten. But in the light of the gospel woman occupies a position all her own in the eternal economy of the Creator; and in this position she is as truly superior to man as is he to her in his appointed place. Woman shall yet come to her own, exercising her rights and privileges as a sanctified investiture which none shall dare profane."
You should read "Half the Sky" by Nicholas Kristof, a feminist if there ever was one.

Suvi said...

Also, I represent a women's organization at the UN, discussing issues affecting women worldwide and trying to connect women and their influence for good. Our mission matches your sentiments (and we do get into the feminist/non-feminist debate there too-- I think it is a generational thing). Check it out:

Carrie said...

@Kelly who posted on 3/26:
"One thing I have always found interesting about feminists is how they fight for a woman's right to choose and then criticize her choice to stay at home and raise her children. What gives?"

Kelly, I am a feminist. I believe in a woman's right to choose. I would NEVER judge or criticize a woman's choice to stay at home and raise her children. I think it is important not to generalize in situations such as this, as one person's definition is different than the other's, and everyone's interpretations are managed by their experiences. Just my .02.

Terresa said...

Bold, faith affirming post.

The Thayne quote was the perfect topper.

Write on, in all your star gazing glory. The world is listening.

Happy Easter, Cjane.

Lanie Ree said...

I was inspired by the post, and confused by the comments. I feel like most of the things people are getting mad about are addressed directly in the post. Here, I'll quote some of them:

"She can fight injustice. She can heal from injustice. She can help other women fight or heal from injustice...."

"...But these powers are the most potent when used to love other women. To support. To carry. Lift. Encourage. Serve. Fight alongside."

"...I can't write for every woman, and every woman's unique circumstance. I am not aware of every tribal, local, religious, federal policy on women around the globe. I believe a woman's ultimate goal is happiness, but I can't begin to describe what that looks like for everyone. What I want to hear from other women, is what I will give in return: We can do it. Whatever it is. We can do it. We have done it before. We will do it again and again."

Simply beautiful.

Anonymous said...

"And sadly, the sacredness of our bodies are the most exploited entity on this planet."

I just do not have words to express how important that sentence is.

Thank you for saying it out loud. It can't be said enough.

Anonymous said...

I hadn't been back to your blog after "the post" because I found it so offensive. This one was better. Mostly because of the line "women are not better than or less than, other women or men". That was much different than the line in your other post about being less than Chup and not caring.

I still think you don't understand the scope, but I appreciate the amount of time and effort you obviously put into it.

If you want to dig deeper, I suggest reading Half The Sky. It will change you forever.

Shelly Cunningham said...

"She can find confidence." I believe completely that I am capable of hearing God's voice, and he speaks to me through a million sources. Sometimes a thought, a whisper or a song. Sometimes a quote, a laugh or a blog post. Tonight, when I needed it most, he did it through you. Thank you. Here's hoping I CAN find confidence.

On another note, I love your blog, your honesty, how much you love your husband and the joy you brings me when you've posted something new. Thanks for sharing.
Thanks so much.

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