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Faculty members release book on feminism in higher education

BY SARAH O’ROURKE | STAFF WRITER

Dr. Bettina Tate Pedersen, PLNU professor of Literature, hosted an event to announce “Facing Challenges: Feminism in Christian Higher Education and Other Places,” the book of ten essays she co-edited with Dr. Allyson Jule of Trinity Western University in Colt Forum last Wednesday. The word Feminism, usually skirted in conversation, was the focus of this book.

“I don’t know about all the minutia of [Feminism],” said freshman Taylor Binney, “But I think it’s a pretty cool idea.”

Junior Jimmy Fernand was optimistic about looking at Feminist theory in the classroom alongside other approaches.

“I love to read,” He said. “So I actually think these views can expand my reading vocabulary. Plus, Jesus always said to [speak] with everybody, not just one person.”

Feminism is not a new phenomenon; the term itself was popularized in the 1970’s. So why, then, revive the discussion?

Academics like Dr. Pedersen feel that the conversation of Feminism runs far deeper than the recent trend.

Several students also feel that Feminist issues still apply to their day-to-day lives.

“Feminism was kind of looked down on in more conservative places for me,” said freshman Jenifer Bowman. This includes “Women preaching, teaching, and leading.”

“There still persist erroneous stereotypes of what feminism is,” said Dr. Pedersen.

While PLNU professors are working to embrace Feminist theory, Christian schools in general are hesitant to bring Feminism into the classroom.

The book claims that only about 11 member schools of the 120 Council for Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU) – of which PLNU is a member – have such programs on campus.

Director of Student Life Jeff Bolster said his daughter asked him if Feminism was a “good” word or a “bad” word, on the way to school one day.

A meeting about sexual violence on campus led Bolster to a discussion about issues such as female pronouns as insults. He later described having to turn down a proposed “bet” for student activities, where he would have to wear a princess costume on Caf lane if he lost. He felt it “made fun of both men and women.”

“That’s when Dr. Pedersen approached me,” he said.

Jeff Bolster wrote “I Can’t Be Your Princess: Facing the Challenge of Sexism in Student Life in Christian Higher Education,” which became chapter seven of “Facing Challenges.”

“I live in that real organic matter of day-to-day student life” said Bolster. “It is not pretty—it is also wonderful.”

Bolster works with 65 Residential Assistants. He said “It’s harder to listen about things when you’re unaware or privileged, but you have to look at intent. Do we say things we often don’t think about? Yes. But do we also mostly have great intentions for each other? Yes.”

He said his biggest takeaway “was being able to step back.” Bolster believes he is a better listener now than he has been in a long time.

Pedersen explained how Feminism was in line with what scripture asks us to do.

“People do come with troubling experiences, but they don’t always have a vocabulary that allows them to talk about it in anything but a personal way. We can name that,” she said.

That vocabulary can be applied to other hard problems Christians must tackle.

“We do not actually acknowledge our disagreement about feminism and a feminist praxis until an institutional policy, curricular issue, or a demeaning personal encounter compels us to directly confront our views,” writes Pedersen in Facing Challenges.

She stressed that one cannot make people care, but that Feminist history has contributed to the life we enjoy to- day. Those endeavors, she said, have the potential to create in us more loving Christians.

“I hope were about that in Christian higher education,” she said.

 

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Jordan Ligons

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