In an attempt to get to the heart of what I want to sort out, I'm going to link to another blog that gave a synopsis of what is going on. I don't want to over simplify a situation that is already so heated and emotional for everyone involved, but I also want to get to the root of how I'm feeling.
I've seen many LDS women talking about how Young Women's (the organization for girls ages 12-18) or the LDS church is to blame for many of the strange views girls have on who they should be as women. Truthfully, there are many aspects of the YW program that have always bothered me and I completely agree with some of the sentiments that are being shared. HOWEVER! I also think that people are forgetting that YW is supposed to be an additional support to what is being taught in the home. It is not, and should never have been, the ultimate end all be all of where girls make goals and learn what kind of woman they should strive to become.
Let me explain. I grew up in a house with a very strong mother! I don't know if she would label herself a feminist? So I won't put that label on her. All I will say, is that, as a result of how she grew up, she learned from an early age that it is important--no, no, imperative--to stand up for what is right, be able to provide for yourself, have opinions, and be confident in defending those opinions. She raised her three daughters to feel the same way.
An example: we used to drive the AlCan (Alaska Canadian Highway) every summer of my childhood. We would go from my home town in Alaska to where my mom grew up in Southern California. Usually my dad couldn't leave work for the whole summer like my mom could as a teacher, so she would load up her five kids and take off. That in itself is awesome, but there's more. One time we stopped at a hot springs in Canada. My oldest sister was a teenager at the time and, as we walked on the boardwalk leading from the hot springs back to our car, some older boys walked by. They looked at my sister (I have very pretty sisters) and she, probably out of normal teenage insecurities, looked down at her feet as she walked by them. What my mom said next has always stuck with me. She said, "Don't ever look down at your feet when you pass by men or anyone. Be confident in who you are and hold your head up high, looking straight ahead."
We were taught to never, for a moment, think we were anything but equal (cough cough, or even better) than any man who entered out lives. So I've never considered anything different. (Although I've tried to back off a bit on being better than man...they're alright. :))
When I was 14, I was sitting in my Mia Maid class when the subject of rape came up. Being 14, and having a fairly open dialogue with my parents about the realities of life, my mom and I had just barely had a conversation about what would ever happen if I were raped. Among other things, she explained that if I was ever raped I could come to her right away and we could go to the doctor and they would "clean me out" so that I wouldn't have to worry about becoming pregnant or anything like that. (Sorry if that's a little graphic for anyone.) "Obviously," she explained, "it would not be your fault and your dad and I would do whatever needed to be done to make sure that you were able to heal mentally, physically, and emotionally from such a horrific event."
Back to my Mia Maid class, our well-meaning (I'm assuming) teacher made a comment about how if one of her daughters ever got pregnant because of a rape, she would make them keep the baby because it was "God's will." HOLD THE PHONE, THIS IS NOT A DRILL! Not only is that so messed up, it's not even the official standpoint of the LDS church on rape. I raised my hand, "Well my mom said if that ever happened then you can just go to the doctor and they'll clean you out so you wouldn't have to even worry about getting pregnant." My teacher stood her ground on her position. I was an outspoken kid, but I was also taught to be respectful. I simply shook my head in disagreement and said to myself, "She's wrong, I know she's wrong."
The point is, my mother's voice and teachings had always been such an important part of my life that it didn't matter what my YW teacher was teaching me. I knew what was the truth because of what was taught in my home. My YW teacher was a secondary opinion to be considered, not the end all be all of the decisions I should make.
Conversely, I had many other experiences in YW where what had been taught in my home was reinforced by my teachers and helped me to understand its importance. For example, I've never once doubted the love that God has for me. It was taught in my home and at church that God would always love me, no matter what I did or the choices I made, He would always be there for me to turn to.
What I'm trying to get at is this, there are weird things in the YW program that I feel like are beginning to change. I know in our congregation our Bishop has a desire for all girls to be prepared to serve missions. Of course getting married in the temple is important, but you have to be the best you that you can be before that can happen. Preparing for a mission is a great way to focus on being the best you, looking outside of yourself to help others. Marriage is an important part of this life, but we will all survive and be just as good of people whether we are married or not.
But if a girl feels like all she can do is become a wife and mother, that's not right. Even as a SAHM I know that there has to be more to me than my role as a wife and mother. My mom taught me that, which is why I am always reading and researching what's important to me. Yes, YW needs to change, but even with the way it was 15 years ago, my mothers voice was strong enough to let me know that there was more to life than that. I took the good from YW and added it to the good that was being taught in my home, and that is what set the foundation for who I am and who I am becoming as a woman. If someone's view of their role as a woman was completely distorted because of YW, then blame your mom.