Readers’ Forum: ‘Um … that’s a loaded question’

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If you haven’t seen the Black Menaces on Tik Tok, you’re missing out. They are a group of Black BYU students who interview people around campus and ask them their opinion on topics of race, politics, gender and more.

Although many condemn Disney movies for portraying weak female leads, a recent study on Disney films showed that young girls receive a stronger sense of gender equality from the movies. Most females in Disney movies are heroines. (Graphic courtesy of Feminist Disney Tumblr)

They are doing great work and forcing BYU students to confront their biases and think about hard questions. One of their latest videos asked people the following question: 

“Would you consider yourself a feminist?” 

My mouth gaped open at the first response and only got wider the longer I watched. Only two of the six interviewees gave a straightforward yes.

I expected it to be way more after watching the videos asking people their opinion on stay-at-home moms and abortion. In those Tik Tok videos, most men who were asked if they would be a stay-at-home dad said yes, and many men and women in the other video considered themselves pro-choice.

Knowing Church culture, it makes more sense that in the video with the feminism question, more men said they didn’t know a lot about feminism and the women seemed hesitant to call themselves a feminist because of the negative stigma associated with the word.

As a woman and a BYU student, I understand these fears, but we can do better. 

First of all, I am disappointed that a lot of students don’t even have a basic idea of what feminism is. It’s literally in the name.

Secondly, it broke my heart that people seemed scared of the word “feminist,” like if they called themselves one, Brigham Young himself would crawl out of a corner and chastise them. As if by saying you were a feminist you would be contradicting Church teachings such as those laid out in the Family Proclamation. But men and women were created to be equal! 

Women of the Church, myself included, grew up attending Young Women meetings preparing to be wives and mothers. Most of my activity day/mutual activities were based on homemaking while the boys went on hikes and held Pinewood Derby competitions (not that I am bitter).

Maybe many of us are scared that calling ourselves feminists means abandoning the “natural roles” ingrained in us from the time we could walk and talk. Let’s get one thing straight: You are not betraying your religion if you want something different or if you call yourself a feminist. You have the freedom to make your own choices. 

I acknowledge that the word “feminist” can be very polarizing. It has such a long and controversial history. The feminist movement also has a long way to go. We need to work on being more intersectional and inclusive. But we shouldn’t throw the movement or the word itself out because of past issues or associations. 

Don’t fall into that trap. Don’t denounce everything the movement has worked for. Don’t contribute to making the word “feminism” so divisive. Everyone should be a feminist — men and women. But what really is feminism? 

The term has been twisted and overtaken by some radical groups, but at its core, feminism means gender equality. It means giving women and men equal opportunities and respecting women for their choices regardless. True feminism still respects women for choosing to be wives and mothers as much as it respects them for prioritizing a career.

The important thing is that we uplift women no matter what and work to get to a point where women have the same opportunities as men in the spheres of work, politics and media. If you believe all of this and didn’t consider yourself a feminist before, congrats! You’re a feminist and you never knew it. 

Feminism is good for everyone, including men, but we need to acknowledge that women are marginalized and sidelined compared to men. That is a fact. If anyone is offended by that, all I can tell you is to do your research. 

You can stand up for women. Don’t be afraid to have a strong opinion that others around you don’t hold. As a society, we need to reclaim the word feminist! Be proud to label yourself as one. It’s not scary, and we can work together to make it less so by educating ourselves and others. 

If you don’t want to do research on your own for important topics, not just feminism, let the fear of getting stopped by the Black Menaces in the Wilkinson Student Center and having to say, “I’d have to do more research on that” be enough for you. 

Being a feminist doesn’t take anything away from being a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Let’s do better, BYU.

–Katie Sant

Stafford, Virginia

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