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Today's word on journalism

Monday, January 29, 2007

Words as weapons:

"When he had a pen in his hand it was like giving a kid a machine gun."

--Peter Hall, theater director, on "Angry Young Man" playwright John Osborne (1929-1994)

The F-word at Utah State University

By Sarah Cozzens

December 15, 2006 | Feminism, also referred to as the "F-word", has become an integral part of Utah State University, said Brenda Cooper, the current director of the Women and Gender Studies (WGS) program at USU. She said she defines feminism as the belief in equality for everyone.

"Feminism is not the F-word though some people feel that way," Cooper, Ph.D., said. "It's not about the specific choices a person makes. It's about having the right to make the choice regardless."

Cooper said she enjoys watching the students enter the classroom with often negative ideas of what it means to be a feminist and the change they go through.

Lindsey Kite, a senior at USU majoring in journalism with a minor in the WGS program, agrees. "Most people assume it's a negative term," Kite said. "But feminism is a loaded term. It should be called egalitarianism."

She said the idea is not to bring men down, but to lift women up to the level they are at. states the history of feminism encompasses a broad range of ideas and viewpoints and is difficult to position a beginning. The beginning of the movement, or "first-wave" feminism, in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, opened up the door for the women's right to vote and new thinking concerning women's roles. Second-wave feminism brought about Betty Freidan's "problem with no name" in the 1960s, and today, the newer and continuing group of third-wave feminists are looking at feminism through the eyes of race, class, and gender, the Web site states.

The program at USU has survived through 30 years at USU with decreasing financial aid and increasing obstacles, said Cooper. The dedicated faculty and the energy level of the students, she said, have kept it alive. The Women and Gender Studies program is part of the USU Tri-Council for Gender, which is also made up of the Women's Center and the Women and Gender Research Institute (WGRI). WGRI works to encourage research in gender issues and recruiting and retaining women faculty, according to their Web site.

"Nationally as well as locally, women tend to be academically isolated and underrepresented in certain disciplines," their site states, "Involvement in a research community means political and intellectual empowerment for many women."

The three-fold program is continuously growing and changing and has been re-energized by active students, Cooper said. The WGS program recently hosted a luncheon, honoring several students graduating in the program and encouraging new students to get involved. The program is open to all students, who can receive a minor, or an Area Studies Certificate in the program, according to the Web site, the courses "provide an understanding of the role of gender and its practical implications in your basic life experiences, and insight into the current and future changes in the roles of women and men in this country and the world."

"The classes peak interest," Kite said. "Everything taught in them hits home."

She said she encourages other students to join because it is a program that spans all different areas of the university and has to do with life in general. Students discover new and interesting things that aren't taught in public school,

Kite said, "It's interesting to hear about history, math, and life in general, from a woman's perspective." The program, while not specific to any major, can be an enhancement to any career or life, according to the Web site.

"It's the most important program on campus," said Cooper," it changes students. I love watching them become empowered as their perspectives change."

The WGS program also instigated a new club for students interested in gender issues. The club is called Women Organizing for Women, or WOW, though it is open to all students. The club met for the first time last November and chose a gender-related book to read over the holidays entitled, "Burned Alive." Kite said she wishes the program, which has so much to offer, could receive more recognition from the students and faculty.

To current students and future feminists, "dig in," said Kite. "Make education your first priority. We can be so much more than what we sometimes become." The best advice for students interested is to check out the program, said Cooper. Students and faculty alike can be easily contacted through the USU Web site.


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