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
"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.
Wikipedia.org 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
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
"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.