When I was a little kid, feminism wasn't called feminism. The way I remember it, back then feminism was called "Women's Lib" and it was evil.
This was back in the distant era of the 1970s -- also known as they Polyester Age -- and "Women's Lib" was all about crazy stuff like burning your bra (irresponsibly immodest and a fire hazard!) and forcing boys and girls to use the same bathroom by promoting something called the E.R.A. And who could be in favor of such obviously misguided foolishness? So like all good and reasonable Mormon families of the time, we were opposed to "Women's Lib."
On the other hand, the fact that girls should be encouraged to aspire to be anything they want to be -- just like boys -- was a fact that was so self-evident that it certainly didn't require a name, such as "feminism."
My parents encouraged almost all of my childhood dreams, including ones when I was really little that my older brother insisted on pointing out were impossible such as becoming queen of America or taking over for Robin (of Batman and Robin).
For example, one day on a whim I decided that I should grow up to be a doctor, and I went and told my dad about this idea. In retrospect, it seems that a typical response from an LDS parent of the time might have been to say something like "Now honey, that would take an awful lot schooling during just the time that you'll want to be a mommy. You could maybe study nursing instead if you like while preparing for marriage and family."
It pains me to type out a statement like that even as a theoretical possibility since saying such a thing would have been so alien to either one of my parents that it would never have crossed their minds. My dad's actual response was to ask me what I wanted to be a doctor of, since there are plenty of fields out there to get a doctorate in such as mathematics, different branches of science, etc. So I went back to the drawing board to try to decide which field of research would interest me the most.
The one ambition of mine that I remember my mom didn't encourage was when I decided I wanted to grow up to be a prophet. I went and found myself a secluded natural area with a little pond surrounded by trees and prayed to have a vision. I tried this a few times, but as you might imagine it didn't work very well. I didn't let this discourage me, though. I don't remember how it came up in conversation, but at one point I was telling my mom about my plan and about my idea that I could just pretend I had a vision, and write a book about it, and then I could found a religion.
I don't know if I imagined my mom would praise my cleverness and ambition to aspire to such a highly esteemed position or what, but I was disappointed to find that she wasn't at all happy about it. Even after I carefully explained to her that if I told everyone I had a vision, no one would know for sure or be able to prove that it didn't happen.
I'm guessing my mom was displeased that I had apparently intuited that that was a perfectly normal and reasonable manner to go about becoming the leader of a religion. Out of the mouths of babes -- sometimes a child's innocent impressions of how that world works are cute and appreciated, and sometimes they aren't.
It didn't even occur to me to aspire to become prophet by rising up through the ranks of the gerontocracy of the LDS Church. Even if it weren't for the fact that such a thing would be as impossible for a girl as becoming queen of America, it didn't appeal to me since everyone knows deep down that that's not how you become one of the cool prophets.
But in the end my mom made mincemeat of my dream of founding a religion, so I got that Ph.D. in mathematics instead.
Published in the Utah Valley Monitor February 09, 2006.