Monday, November 23, 2009

My thoughts on the WRI aka how I lost my revolutionary fervor

(I wrote these thoughts a few weeks ago but was not sure how I felt about posting them until I really worked through my feelings on this controversial issue. I'm sure many of you are dying to hear my perspective, right?)

"My thoughts on the WRI aka how I lost my revolutionary fervor"

The announced closing of BYU's WRI has been a tragedy for those who were involved in the great work that was done there. It is a symbolic demise of important and substantial research on women. For me, though, it's been ever more tragic and life-changing. Through the closing of the WRI, I've realized just how much I've been moved by motherhood.

In September, I gave birth to a beautiful little boy. This little human being with his perfect little hands and tender little eyelashes has changed my outlook on life more than I could ever imagine. I knew I wanted to be a mother. I craved the pregnancy and the birthing and the breastfeeding for the past few years with an intensity that was not quelled until I experienced all that motherhood had to offer.

On the other hand though, I did not think motherhood would really change me. I expected to go on with my controversial feminist self, sparking dialogue about feminist issues everywhere I wandered. I figured I would just do so with baby in tow, nestled tight in the moby wrap, breastfeeding at meetings and rallies.

Then, the WRI closed. And I read the press release the night before it was published and my heart ached with sadness for the loss of this great institution. I joined the facebook group. I read the commentary. But it wasn't until I received a call one morning from a kbyu reporter that I realized I had lost what my husband refers to as my "revolutionary fervor." She called at 10 in the morning for an interview, and I groggily accepted (not realizing that it was um, tv? yeah, so if you've seen it, that's me, brand-new mother, straight out of bed so excuse the horrible hair and the bags under the eyes) not knowing yet what I was to learn about myself that morning. She arrived at my home a little while later, and we sat down to discuss the closing of the WRI.

Now the WRI has been the most influential part of my BYU experience. As a Women's Studies minor, I found my academic niche. I savored every class period and every discussion on women and the world. It was in these classes I have met my truest friends. They get me in an academic and social environment where I often feel lost and mistaken. As a WomanStats research assistant, I have come to know and love Dr. Valerie Hudson and her team of coders. Our Friday meetings have been salvation to me at times when I'm frustrated with certain BYU professors who openly proclaim gender inequality. They have been a listening ear and a crying shoulder when the doctrines of the Church or the culture thereof has hurt me deeply. WomanStats itself has taught me research skills and valuable academic lessons that I plan on carrying with me to graduate school. Finally, as the president of Parity, I found my voice for gender equality. I staged rallies, I organized meetings, I wrestled with administration. I simultaneously grew disenchanted and smitten with all that BYU has to offer us feminists. There is so much delicious contradiction in this institution, and I found that I had a knack for unearthing it.

So, you see, the WRI was as important to me and my education as any. But when I sat down to that interview, I realized I had nothing controversial to say. I, in a monotone that I didn't even recognize, ticked off the reasons our dear Dean Magleby gave for the shutting down of this important institution. I reiterated the role that the WRI had in my life, but I could not muster up the ability to even begin to explore the disheartening politics of power and money and gender at BYU, things that just last year would have enraged me.

What's more? I have no real desire to "Save the WRI" with the rest of the feminists. While I very much am sad to see it go and hope to everything that all of this noise makes a difference, I have turned over the reins of Parity to three very capable and ardent feminists. I see what they are accomplishing and the publicity they are getting and a part of me aches for my former life, single and babyless and revolutionary. But all I need to do to relieve that ache is roll over in my bed and cuddle up next to my very feminist husband and our future-feminist tiny child. They make me realize that all I accomplished in the past for women was worth it, and now I'm accomplishing an even more important task and the most feminist-y task of all. While I will never, ever stop voicing my opinions against injustice in the world and I will definitely not keep my voice down when a RS lesson turns awry, you will no longer see me on the frontlines of the protests. I plan on doing more behind the scenes work... in my home and over the internet. I will be here, teaching my children about equality and tolerance and love and respect.

What I actually did tonight instead of attending the meeting on saving the WRI? Made homemade soup and brownies, nursed my darling child to sleep, sewed a cloth diaper. And this is who I am, who I've become, and who I've always longed to be.

(adorable activist tee courtesy of "Save the WRI")


  1. Caitlin. You are my hero. You become more and more amazing every day. I love that about you, and I love you. Thanks for being my friend.

  2. Cait, you rock. That is all. Thanks for that!

  3. I love you Cait. Thanks for these beautiful thoughts. I so admire who you were and are now.

  4. I have the opposite problem. While I have always felt strongly about women's issues, and I have never hesitated to voice my opinions, having a daughter has made me even more sensitive to discrimination and sexism and has fueled a desire to change the world.
    That said, the epitome of feminism, in my opinion, is to have a choice, to be able to fulfill our purpose as mothers and wives without being thought of as "less". I consider my role as a mother the most important thing I could possibly do in this world, I love being a woman and it makes me sad that some women feel they have to give up femininity to be considered somewhat equal.

  5. That was beautifully put. Thank you for the post. I've felt very removed from everything going on with the WRI--I can't even join the FB group because it's blocked in China. I've only known the fiery Caitlin (and secretly wished I could be more like you), but I wish I could see you now too. Reading your blogs since your baby was born has been really inspiring for me and I hope I can be as good a mom someday!

    And I'm still WomanStats relocating? There are so many good memories in the WRI library...