How Working on the WomanStats Project Has Changed My Life

I have been a WomanStats coder since the beginning of June, 2009, so just around 8 months. I would like to share how my perspective of the world and myself has changed because of the research I have done about the women of the world.

I remember one of my first training meetings asking Professor Hudson (WomanStats BYU facilitator) “What does FGM stands for?” I remember getting a reply similar too, “Well you are going to learn quickly.” Now not only do I know that FGM is female circumcision but that 3 million girls and women are cut each year, and there is an active cause (in Mauritania and West Africa and elsewhere) to fight against it.

Once when I was a teenager (I think I was 15 years old) I watched an Oprah about women trafficking. My mouth dropped open as I learned about girl being sold and bought all over the world. I had never heard about it before. I turned off the TV shocked. Now I know that here in the great US of A truck stops are just a guise for female prostitution and United States officials sate that 14,500 to 17,500 people are brought into the country for purposes of exploitation every year (but of course those numbers are probably low).
When I was 5 years old I became an aunt. Now I have 15 nieces and nephews. They are so precious. Cute little hands and toes and beautiful smiles. Never had it ever crossed my mind that if they lived in a different country they could be getting married. Now I know that in Romania girls as young as five are becoming brides to men five times their age. They even move out of their families homes into their new families home and there is little to no enforcement of child rape.

So, has this education made me a cynic?

More like a fighter.

The education I have gained through this work is eternally invaluable. An example. A popular movie I watched in church growing up is called Johnny Lingo. It is how men ought to value women. I watched it since being a WomanStats coder and my mind was spinning. Not only did the movie promote bride prices but that women are property and are meant to be an means to an end (in this case Mahana is made a beautiful “servant” to Johnny Lingo). I also “mentally code” in movies, conversations, professors lectures, and even at church. I am sometimes (or often) shocked at what we think is acceptable, but in reality is belittling women.

When I overhear people on campus talk about dropping out of school when they get married, I speak up. When I find out that a certain University wants to shut down their Women’s Research Institute, I get up and fight. When I feel like placing my worth on whether or not I am accepted by a man, I straighten up. When I see women belittled in pornography or looked down on for having children, I stand up.

Ever since I was little I felt that something was very wrong with the idea that women were subordinate to men. Up until recently, I didn’t know why I felt that way or how to articulate why it was wrong. Education and understanding the importance of gender relations has helped me see the world in a clearer lense where relationships between men and women have not only political implications, but also influence that penetrates almost every aspect of society. From the stability of nations to the peace of our own families, how others view motherhood and women in society is pivotal to the well being of our communities.
The WomanStats project is not just about changing the lives of the women of the world; it also changes the lives of those who do the research.

—by JF

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