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Inside Scoop on the Center for Women and Gender at USU

Answers by Stephanie Bagnell, Reni McBride, and Dr. Ann Austin

The Center for Women and Gender at Utah State University understands that in the world there is much confusion of gender roles and gender. At USU there are those who don’t understand what exactly the Center does.  The Center would like to solve all of those misconceptions and misunderstandings about what they are and what they stand for. Below you will find several questions and answers from Center employees.

1. The Center for Women and Gender is perceived as  a “feminist” group on campus. Is this the purpose of the Center?

This is a myth. The Center for Women and Gender is actually an academic program that houses the Women and Gender Studies minor and certificates (similar to a major). At the Center we not only work with women studies, but we work with all genders. The center is interested in exploring and addressing the challenges of intersectionalities (study of intersections between forms of oppression, domination, or discrimination) and social justices for women and men.

2. Some students may think that the employees that work in the Center are all “extreme feminists,” is that true?

This is a myth. Stephanie Bagnell a coordinator for The Center says, “We are all feminists, but we all are on different levels. Extreme feminism is rare to find because feminism is about equality. If someone has something that they believe in and will stand up for, then they are doing what is at the core of feminism.”

Reni Mcbride who also works for the center says, “I have always believed in equality for all humans- not to be judges or judge by any means of stereotypical human ways. I believe that the Center for Women and Gender tried to uphold those well-rounded thoughts, beliefs and processes each day. I am very humbled to hold the position I have in the Center and to work with the people that make this Center an ever moving and evolving change to the thoughts, rights and beliefs of humans, no matter who, what, when, why, or how they live.”

Dr. Ann Austin is the director for the Center. She coordinates the speakers who come to Utah State’s campus, brown bag events (lunchtime events for campus and community), as well as the academic side of the center, which includes a minor and a certificate. She says, “It’s too bad that there are misconceptions, but I think they (people) come by them honestly. There have been times in the media when people have been doing extreme things or saying unfair things about men or other women label themselves as feminists, but they don’t understand that a true feminists looks for collaboration and equality for everybody. A true feminist puts men and women’s rights on an equal plane. Everybody needs to have a vision, this non-hierarchical collaborative way of doing business.”

Dr. Austin is a member of the LDS church and feels that there are some men within power who are feminists themselves such as President Hinckley, President Eyring, President Monson, and President Uchtdorf because she believes they believe in a sense of equality, supporting others, not being hierarchical. She believes that there are some people within the LDS religion who choose to use feminism as a derogatory term because there was a leader that said there are three dangers to the church–  gays, intellectuals, and feminists.

She says, “I feel like I’ve always been a very loyal member to the church and I feel sorry that that person felt the need to say that. True feminists look for collaboration, cooperation, equality and that should be values that everyone should have regardless of their religion.

3. What do you think about the misconception of the word “feminism”?

In the Center we often hear different misconceptions about who we are and what we do. We feel that the word feminism is used in Cache Valley as a derogatory word to describe women who have courage. We believe that feminism should be a word to celebrate our differences and the improvements we have made in equality.

4. What does the center offer as far as the certificate?

The Graduate Certificate in Women and Gender Studies Program provides a base of study that addresses the intersecting issues of gender, age, race, ethnicity, class, regionalism, nationalism, sexual identity, etc. as they affect women and men. The certificate is complementary to a wide variety of graduate programs, and is also available as a standalone certificate.

A flexible, interdisciplinary academic program, Women and Gender Studies (WGS) is unique at USU in bringing together women and men of all ethnicities and sexual identities to explore the many ways in which gender influences people’s lives and worldviews. Courses focus on the role of gender in human culture, examining the dynamics of sex roles and gender ideals, both historically and in the present. Through coursework and research, students engage in the study of femininities and masculinities, as well as the social forces that construct these gender identities, from many perspectives.

More information can be found on The Center for Women and Gender website

5. How does the Center work for women’s rights and what events do they put on?

Every year the Center tries to bring in at least two speakers that advocate for women and issues surrounding rights. They also have our student run Perspectives club, which focuses on campus issues surrounding all genders. They often bring in movies surrounding these issues and run events that are tied to the university and students. Lastly, we hold events that honor women in the university and community that have made great gains in improving the lives of women everywhere.

The Center for Women and Gender is always happy to answer any questions for students who are interested in the program academically and who just want to learn how to get involved.

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