I read this news a couple months ago at Feminist Mormon Housewives. I was running around having Girldrive readings and such, and therefore forgot to post on it. But I was reminded about it again when someone showed me this Facebook group protesting the decision–which has almost 2,000 members! One of the women involved, Sara, recently posted that the university has started “negotiations” on the issue after thousands of students signed a petition. Beyond that, the incident has seemed to have spurred a tight-knit community of young Mormon feminists sharing information with each other. Like this Facebook post:
Valerie Hudson (of the BYU WomanStats project) was recognized as one of the 100 most influential global thinkers of the year by Foreign Policy. One more piece of evidence that the gender-related research coming out of BYU is important, relevant, and getting positive press for the university.
This is what I am telling those I write to who are not of our faith: Just because the choices LDS women make based on our faith are considered old-fashioned, doesn’t mean that we aren’t strong, intelligent women who believe in gender equality and everything else feminism stands for. I am proud to consider myself a feminist, and so do many other men and women at this university. We desperately want for this program to not go the way of several other important programs at this university (such as our International Development minor, another magnet for more liberal and therefore supposedly more dangerous students, which was eliminated recently), and it’s possible that if enough people outside of our community stand up for the WRI, maybe the higher-ups will change their minds.
One more thing: I may be a convert, a democrat, a feminist, and I may have a swearing problem that I still haven’t licked, but this is my church too. I’m not going anywhere, but it’s things like this that make it so hard to be a BYU student. This is not an issue of faith. Most of the students at BYU are faithful adherents to the LDS faith and are not being oppressed or silenced by the Church itself. Rather, it is the bureaucracy at the university level that is the source of the problem for myself and all other like-minded students here. I have found that my faith is one of the greatest sources of my personal empowerment as a women, and that my religious beliefs and my social beliefs complement rather than contradict each other. For BYU students, the solution is not to abandon our faith, rather to find ways to reconcile the beliefs of another generation to the ideals we uphold with as much fervor as we do our religion. Shutting down our Women’s Research Institute would be a step in the entirely wrong direction.
BYU students are working hard to restore the institute. If you’re in Utah, ask Sara how you can help. Email her here.
This incident not only sheds light on the way young people are galvanized to protect feminism when it starts slipping away from them, but also raises interesting questions about the relationship between feminism and faith, and the effects of the recession on women’s studies programs and research institutes across the country.