Feminism need not be as divisive as it often is, says a Brigham Young University psychology professor.
Larry Jensen conducted several surveys that found unanimity, or at least majority consensus, on gender issues and feminism. The results show that most men and women agree on nine basic statements about feminism, which he calls "family feminism." And those beliefs mirror the teachings of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Jensen said."A lot of objectionable values and beliefs presented in the name of feminism are objected to by Mormon women, and that makes other Mormon women say, `I'm not a feminist,' " Jensen said. "Then these Mormon women are accused of being anti-woman. The solution is to find areas of agreement among women and have a feminism that is compatible and attractive to most women."
The nine statements cover issues such as allowing women the same freedoms as men; acknowledging that women and men differ psychologically as well as physically; that women should have the same educational opportunities as men; and that increased emphasis on the family and home will increase the importance and value given to women.
Jensen, with cooperation from professors at other universities, presented the questionnaire to students at California State Polytech Institute in San Luis Obispo, Auburn, Purdue and Northern Illinois universities. The survey was given to several non-students as well and, after some fine-tuning, was answered by more than 700 respondents with almost 80 percent agreement.
Agreement spanned both sexes, all ages, religious affiliation and regional variations. What the survey shows, Jensen said, is that common areas of feminism exist upon which respondents agreed.
Many women, especially LDS women, feel trapped by the popular concept of feminism because it is more anti-family, Jensen said. But in reality, "most women have a feminist viewpoint that is similar to Mormon women," he said.
The importance of this is that feminism has long been a divisive issue, when it can actually unite women and men of all ages and all walks of life, Jensen said.
"Once they realize their beliefs are compatible, then they can develop a unique approach to feminism which is pro-family. Becoming aware of the information can largely resolve the differences," he said.
9 statements presented in questionnaire
- The interests of women can best be achieved by providing women with freedom in all areas of life.
- Femininity should valued, not denied.
- Reason, persuasion, cooperation and mutual appreciation will result in more enduring and meaningful long-term benefits to women.
- Education should be open to all women.
- Women should receive special social consideration, courtesy and respect.
- Women need some legal protections that are different from those of men.
- Women need policies that prevent sexual exploitation and harassment.
- Increased emphasis on family and home will increase the importance, status and value given to women.
- Women are best served by the same sexual standard for both men and women, which emphasizes fidelity and faithfulness within marriage.