Thursday, February 28, 2013

"Thy Daughters True": Feminism at OBU - Part 1

Feminism at OBU Series
"Thy Daughters True": Feminism at OBU - Part 1
"Thy Daughters True": Feminism at OBU - Part 2

Editor's Note: Thanks to the literally thousands of you who read guest writer Sarah Jones's recent series on Cedarville University in Ohio.  Today, we welcome OBU alumna Cortney (Pickering) Stone ('02), who is contributing a series on a feminist student organization at OBU in the early 2000s.  As ever, a debate about feminism and Christianity is raging throughout the evangelical blogosphere.  The hot-button issues include biblical perspectives on gender and the relationship of Christian feminism to the feminist movement at large.  Our series will touch on these only tangentially.  But we promise an important --- yet often missing --- perspective: The role of the college experience in forming and nurturing feminist attitudes.  Please join me in welcoming Cortney as she shares her experiences and wisdom.

Back in November, Jacob posted about the history of student protests at OBU. After reading that blog entry, I offered to share a story about a protest that occurred when we were both attending OBU. Though he did not remember the protest and my own memories are hazy in places, I will never forget much of what happened. It made a significant impact on my life and my experience at OBU.

I'm originally from a small town in southern Oklahoma and I was raised in a Southern Baptist church. I began attending OBU in the fall of 1998 as a member of one of its largest incoming freshman classes, and I graduated in May 2002. I earned a BA in Humanities and OBU transformed my heart and mind. I still carry quotes and lessons from my favorite professors in my heart even after all these years. I love OBU, and, like Jacob and the others who are a part of the Save OBU community, I am very sad to see things change for the worse at the university.

I am a feminist -- someone who pursues justice and equality. OBU -- of all places -- nurtured my feminism. There were many students and professors who were also feminists, though many openly rejected the label in spite of holding to feminist ideals. I befriended several other young women who were feminists, and we realized that OBU had plenty of issues with gender equality and almost no one was openly addressing those issues. In 2001, we decided to form a women's issues group. I don't remember exactly how it all came together, but I believe our women's history course is to blame!

With administrative permission, we established an official on-campus organization called FAIR. The name wasn't an acronym. It was just a succinct way to explain our vision: equality, justice, and ensuring that things were fair for men and women at OBU. In the process of forming the group, we discovered that we weren't the first women's issues organization on campus. There had been many others throughout the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s. None of them had lasted longer than a few years.  Feminism clearly wasn't dead at OBU. It was cyclical.

We avoided calling FAIR a "feminist" group because the label was a red flag for many at OBU. Our purpose was to address women's issues on campus: not low-hanging fruit like the casual sexism of TWIRP Week or the patriarchal lyrics of the Alma Mater Hymn, but difficult issues such as needing more female chapel speakers, more female faculty members (especially tenured professors), equal pay for faculty members, confronting on-campus discrimination, and so forth. (Click here for several Save OBU posts on gender issues at OBU.) We were also concerned with topics of interest and issues that went beyond OBU's boundaries, such as conditions for women in Afghanistan under the Taliban. We wanted to inform students about women's concerns and improve conditions for women at OBU and beyond.

Things went very well for our small group for many months. We lived out our purpose and received some support from students and faculty. No one openly opposed what we were doing or saying. 

Then, only a few months before I graduated, our group had to face its biggest challenge. I'll tell that story here next week.

1 comment:

  1. Great way to kick off Women's History Month! I'm looking forward to this, as a fellow feminist.

    --Sarah J


We invite you to join in the conversation. However, anonymous comments are unwelcome.