LDS Undergraduate Women: “Major” Decisions

Being a woman in a male dominated major at a school with a large LDS population can be difficult.  Although many of the male students won’t treat women any differently, there are some who will act threatened by or uncomfortable with women in these programs.  It is not that uncommon for women to be told that they are “taking up the spot” of a potential breadwinner, or asked what in the world they are going to do with their major once they are a stay at home mom.  Generally, the stereotypes of women in male dominated fields is that they are career oriented and thus are not interested in having a family.  There is also an assumption that women in male dominated majors must be planning on using the major in a stereotypical female way by going into teaching or part-time work. Read More

Continuity and Discontinuity in Identity During the Transition to Motherhood

One of the key principles of developmental psychology is continuity and discontinuity. In lay terms, this refers to what changes and what stays the same within an individual over time. I have been thinking a lot about this recently because of my own personal journey into motherhood and how that journey evolves as my son grows and changes.  Last week, I pulled out the photo books that my mom had faithful constructed of my growing up years.  Just looking at the photos reminds me of the type of person I was throughout childhood, high school, and undergrad.  I was always very contemplative and “in my head”. Read More

Proselytizing and Liberal Contempt

For me political choice is generally negative; prolonged exposure to the proponents of one set of dogmas tends to drive me into the arms of that dogma’s opponents. By the logic of this unpleasant via negativa, my upbringing in Utah County made me liberal; recent years in the ivory tower, on the other hand, have driven me right, although I’d continue to describe myself as a liberal-leaning moderate of the most unfashionable possible variety. Just a couple of my quarrels with the left: I think much of the sexual revolution was a misstep that has resulted in the widespread masculinization of sexuality–not a liberatory move for women, nor even for men–and I find our culture’s adolescent, pornographic view of sex both boring and exhausting. I also have reservations about a certain wholesale uncritical veneration of nature, ongoing now at least since that old wide-eyed hippie rake Rousseau. Sad though some of its consequences have certainly been, we as a species left nature behind about 10,000 years ago with the neolithic revolution, and I for one have no desire to go back. When well-meaning people earnestly inform me  of the virtues of natural foods, natural fibers, and natural sources of energy, all I can think is that there’s nothing more natural than losing all of one’s teeth to chronic malnutrition, dying in agonizing childbirth approximately nine months after achieving puberty, or losing multiple family members to epidemics of cholera or the plague. Hooray for the thoroughly artificial health technologies of our culture. Not so interested in subsisting for long periods of time on berries and bark scrapings, myself. Read More

The Western University and the Secular Compromise: Some Implications for Literature

This afternoon one of my students met with me about his next paper, which he wants to write refuting The Da Vinci Code and defending the divinity of Jesus Christ. I found myself struggling to explain to him why he can’t write such a paper to fulfill a university assignment. I tried to help him think about possible lines of argument he could pursue that would allow him to discuss his beliefs in intellectual and secular terms. It is my pleasant responsibility to help him master the norms of the university, and that means learning to speak, think, and write about religion in terms accessible to public consideration, in the terms of rational argument and empirical analysis. On the one hand, I deeply respect those terms; I’ve chosen with great joy to spend my six-day-a-week life examining the world in them. And learning to think about one’s beliefs in intellectual terms can be a vital and invigorating experience, although there are far too few spaces in the borderlands between the university and the church where believing students can bring the disparate pieces of their lives together; as a believing scholar, I long for more such spaces. But on the other hand, perhaps we secular educators (among whom I must count myself, insofar as I teach a secular subject in a secular context) sometimes rush too quickly over the losses incurred in the secular environment. The most essential expressions of religious belief are generally precluded by secular norms; in an important sense we allow every possible discussion of religion except what it most essentially is. Read More

The Sexisms of Graduate School

It’s an age-old and tiresome story, and I’ve watched more than one friend undergo some variation on it. He’s got what you want: the knowledge, the erudition, the passing grade on exams, the dissertation signature. He’s brilliant, an acknowledged expert in your particular area of study, an incisive thinker and an wide-ranging scholar, and he provides quick, detailed (some might say terrible and swift) feedback on the many difficult but instructive assignments he requires. In short, just the kind of professor from whom one might, in theory, secure a first-class education.

He’s also, not to put too fine a point on it, a jerk.

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Bored by Sex

Not THAT kind of sex. Literature-classroom sex, the wordy two-dimensional substitute for the real thing.

Although I’m firmly committed to the law of chastity, I don’t think I’m a prude. I think it’s possible and at times necessary to discuss sex publicly and that it can and should be done with both maturity and candor. For example, I don’t think youth or adults are well served by chastity lessons that consist mostly of the vague injunction “Don’t do it.” And of course, sex really _is_ part of literature. I once taught a literature class at BYU and noticed halfway through the semester that in one way or another it had come up in every single text (Montaigne, Shakespeare, Goethe, Marx, Ibsen…) we had studied. I finally threw up my hands and facetiously told the class that the chance to read about sex is the whole reason to major in literature instead of math. Read More

Searching for Honesty and Wholeness in Teaching Women’s Studies

I’ve been a teaching assistant for an introductory Women’s Studies class the past few semesters. Last semester I had a rewarding and thought-provoking experience (I’ve actually had many, but I’m going to talk about one in particular) with one of my sections. We were talking one week about art and activism and the ways in which women have used art to represent their lives and make feminist statements. I think the reading prompted the students to consider how to negotiate feminism in their own lives because one student expressed frustration with translating the ideas from class into her lived experience. She was trying to deal with friends dismissing her by saying things like “Oh, there she goes again with her feminist complaints about patriarchy,” and she wanted to know what to say in these situations; basically, she wanted to know how to communicate the ideas she learned in class and have people actually listen. We talked in class some about that frustration, and ended up bringing the conversation back to the art we were discussing–how the women artists used humor, creativity, and personal experiences to reach their audience (rather than just angry ranting). Read More