When I was a young woman of 22 I returned to Australia from the United States. Not long after my return I was sat down by the Bishop of my church, the Mormon church, and asked why I wasn’t married yet.
The conversation went something like this:
Bishop: I am concerned that you are not yet married or engaged, and that you haven’t as an alternative applied to go on a mission.
Me: I don’t want to go on a mission.
Bishop: Why not? You are over 21, and you’ve no imminent plans to get married. Do you?
Me: No, I don’t. Actually, I am going to university. I start in February.
Bishop: Why do you want to go to university?
Me: To get a degree, so I can build a career and look after myself.
Bishop: But you don’t need to have a career. Your greatest calling is to be a wife and a mother. If you are not seriously considering going on a mission, I would like you to think more seriously about marriage. I know that you’re dating (he shall remain nameless) and he is a good man, just returned from his mission. He would make a great husband and father.
I was dumb-founded. I excused myself from the meeting and never went back to church again.
I converted to Mormonism after my mother did, when I was nine years old. At the age of 21 I attended BYU in Utah for one semester. There I dated two guys, both of whom proposed after the third date. I declined; I was only 21.
BYU was rather expensive and it was a blessing in disguise when I was essentially forced to leave the U.S. and return to Australia to complete my education there. It was also a blessing in disguise that my Bishop called me into his office that day, as it forced me to play a hand I knew I needed to play. I left the church, and I have not looked back. It was the first time I took a stand against that kind of limited thinking.
To be clear, I have nothing against Mormons or people of any faith for that matter. I do, however, take issue with institutionalized misogyny or anything that remotely resembles it. I also have nothing against motherhood or marriage for that matter, but neither were things that I wanted at the age of 22; I wanted to go to university.
A few weeks ago, along with many of my Australian friends, I ranted about the appallingly disrespectful behavior directed at Australia’s Prime Minister, Julia Gillard. Under the guise of disagreeing with her policies, she has been subjected to systematic and hateful behavior. It culminated in her asking for the resignation of Tony Abbot, leader of the opposition and a man guilty of perpetuating and allowing this behavior by members of his own party. He declined to resign, not surprisingly, but I loudly applauded that she called him out for his hypocrisy when he claimed to be offended by another politician’s behavior.
This past week in the United States, yet another Republican politician has made a highly offensive gaff when addressing the topic of ‘rape and pregnancy’. The list of blatantly stupid and offensive comments about this one topic is horrifyingly long, and even the President is taking the time to address them and labeling them as ridiculous. Tina Fey, respected comedian/actress/writer and all-around super smart woman, took these men to task this past week during an appearance at the Center for Reproductive Rights Inaugural Gala. Great work, Tina.
One of the greatest advocates for controlling reproductive rights for women is Paul Ryan, the Vice-Presidential nominee. He (strongly) supports a bill that would abolish the right to in vitro fertilization. To be clear, if this bill – or any bill like it – is ever passed, in vitro would be illegal. The same bill would require a rape victim who becomes pregnant from the rape to deliver the baby, rather than opt for an abortion.
My thoughts on reproductive rights, let alone other women’s issues, such as economic and professional equality, can be explained by the following flow chart.