A Feminist “Nutt” Point of View by Shannon Nutt

This is the first blog post I have written, so the concept of being a blogger is a little foreign to me.  But I will just jump in!

I grew up in a religious house that became far more religious after my mother passed away from brain cancer when I was thirteen.  My single father became heavily involved in the Lutheran Church, thinking this was the best way to raise his two daughters.  I was happy to go to church and get the structure that the church provided.  I was also grateful that I went to a church that had a female pastor.  Lacking a mother, it was nice to have a strong female role model who was breaking into the “boys’ club” that was the church.  Having found a postitive, female role model, I was really upset when I heard very conservative members of other churches and my own family say that women have no business speaking or leading people in church.  I was around sixteen when this was happening, and it broke my heart to see women telling other women that they have no right to be heard in the church.  I never understood why women would dislike or discourage other women just because they were women.  Even at this young age I knew that women should be encouraging one another to pursue their dreams and life goals—including within the church.

Eventually, my female pastor moved away, and all of the negative energy of the religious women around me led me to fall away from church life.  I felt and still feel that every time I go into a church, I am faced with the domination of the patriarchal system.  I feel like males have the position of power in religion and they see females as the Virgin, as the mother/wife, or as Eve who is responsible for the fall of man.  Personally I could not handle any one of those labels.  I remained interested in the study of religion and the role that it plays in human lives and history.  So even though I left church, I continued my own study of different religions in my college education.

I am at the point now that I like the idea of religion or spirituality, but I cannot accept the practice in far too many churches that men rule over women. I also feel that I cannot completely let go of faith because of my life experiences.  I was diagnosed with cancer at 24 years old, my worst fear in life after losing my mother.  Right now I have been in remission for 18 months.  I have a hard time believing there was some greater good or purpose behind my getting sick so young.   I do not believe it was some larger fate, rather I believe that it was just some unfortunate thing that happened to me which I must overcome on the way to my dreams.

Right now, I find comfort and stability in the study of feminism.  I find camaraderie in the struggle with other women (and men!) and rejoice when gains are made for equality.  I find more peace and comfort with other feminists than I ever really did inside a church.  When I was sick, no one from my old church (that my father still belongs to) came to visit or take care of me.  Instead all my friends who valued me as a strong woman surrounded my hospital bed.  From this and many other experiences, I believe that I should surround myself with people who encourage me to be the best I can be and to be a strong woman.  I do not want to be around people who try to limit the things that I should be doing or saying because of my sex.

I also do not think that I could be so egotistical as to think whatever religious decision I find comfort in would work for every person on the planet.  I think that all people deserve to find their own religious paths.  I believe that everyone can find her own path to God and spirituality without me needing to open my mouth about my opinion.  Just like there is no one definition for feminism that works for every feminist, there is no one definition for God for every person on the planet.  Everyone can find her own path to God because I believe that all paths lead to God.

These are just a few thoughts about my religious and feminist journey.  I am happy to be where I am: always learning and always growing.  I am open to change if I am proven wrong on any of these points.  But for right now this is how I feel.

Shannon received her B.A. in History from the University of Arizona and her M.Ed from Northern Arizona University in Secondary Eduction- History.  She is working on her M.A. in History from Claremont Graduate University, with her thesis focusing on the correlation between women’s rights and women’s lingerie. 



Categories: Women and Ministry

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15 replies

  1. Shannon,
    You have begun your feminist yearnings the way we all have, with the personal. Might I suggest a book that I continually recommend to young women traveling your same path: The Dance of the Dissident Daughter: A Woman’s Journey from Christian Tradition to the Sacred Feminine by Sue Monk Kidd. An excellent resource that initiates the reader into an understanding of the sacred feminine while maintaining a foot in traditional religion (if you so choose).

    You are a strong young woman who carries your own mother’s wisdom and truth. I hope you continue to find solace with both women and men as your feminism is stretched and even tested.

    Peace,
    Cynthie

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  2. Dear Shannon,
    Thank you so much for sharing your experiences with feminism. Kudos for posting the first blog too! I really liked how you described your experience of having a female pastor. I can only imagining how empowering that was. I grew up in a very conservative tradition that did not ordain women. Like you, I find myself much more comfortable in a feminist context and even in the academic context vs. the church context. I’m thankful that I have the opportunity to be in two courses with you this semester and I look forward to many more conversations (especially about your thesis – I love the topic!).
    ~Amanda~

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  3. Dear Shannon, What a dear post, so full of feeling and struggle. I wish you lots of feminist sisters and all good health!

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  4. Congratulations on your first blog post Shannon!

    It is a tough nut to crack putting together everything you’ve learned in the last couple of years.
    The older I get, the more I think religion and feminism are completely incompatible. Religion gets the upper hand, because girls don’t get a feminist education first, they get a religious patriarchal church education first. You had a good crack in the pavement with a woman pastor. That was good luck. Patriarchal women are afraid of other women breaking free, and so they will side with male supremacy. It’s why we don’t have a revolution that is complete. It is a peculiar kind of fear a lot of women have of feminism itself.

    I’ve found that churches are often very cruel and rejecting of members if they get sick. This is more common than you’d realize. But what I do know, is if you begin the search for women’s power, and knowledge you’ll find all kinds of amazing women out there. Some of my very best friends are atheists! Religion and women’s power…. patrirachy and its “home court” advantage with all its resources and buildings… Lately, I’ve really been enjoying blogs like SkepChick, a skeptic’s blog, and the bracing science that always makes male dominated religions look like a fool as the centuries go by.

    If I’d just survived a bout with cancer, I’d jump into the big stuff immediately. I wouldn’t go for the liberal feminist stuff, I’d go for the radical vision of women’s freedom. I’d go back to the 19th century and read Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s “Solitude of the Soul”, I’d read Matilda Joselyn Gage’s “Woman, Church and State” and I’d skip ahead to the delightful post-christian Mary Daly.
    Liberals are just that liberals. We were lucky to have so many revolutionary feminists come up in the past 150 years. Women have been trying to break free of the patriarchal stanglehold.

    There is nothing more painful than to drive past one of those huge right wing mega-churches on a Sunday, and see the hundreds and hundreds of women attending these places. “Right Wing Women” by Andrea Dworkin is a good one too!

    Best of luck Shannon! To quote one of my favorite spiritual teachers, Karen Carpenter, “We’ve only just begun….”

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  5. “I believe that I should surround myself with people who encourage me to be the best I can be and to be a strong woman. I do not want to be around people who try to limit the things that I should be doing or saying because of my sex.”

    Well said! Definitely words to live by.

    I have to ask, though (with fascinated astonishment!): have you truly found a “correlation between women’s rights and women’s lingerie”?! :)

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    • To Laughing Collie:
      There is a very stron correlation between women’s lingerie and women’s rights. We can see the attitudes of society shift by what women are allowed to wear under their clothing. Right now I am still in the infant stage of my research, but it is all very exciting. I promise I will share once I am a little further along!

      And to everyone else that has responded:
      I appreciate your comments and your feelings about my first blog. I think that this proves my point that I have found like-minded-people in the world of feminism.

      Amanda:
      I am very grateful to have 2 classes with you as well this semester. And feel free to ask me anything, putting myself out there in a blog has made me a lot more open!

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  6. I appreciate these thoughtful remarks, Shannon — impressive especially for your first-ever blog post! It’s interesting to think about how feminism has come to fulfill many of the same functions as organized religion in your life. On a personal level I’m glad that you’ve found in feminism a meaningful worldview, a supportive social network, and a platform for personal, social, cultural, and political transformation. On a more theoretical level it’s interesting to consider how feminism operates in your life — and for many others — as a kind of replacement for traditional forms of organized religion. It complicates the category of religion, but should also make us analyze if there are forms and ideas that may have been imported into feminism from religion.

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  7. Dear Shannon,
    I really enjoyed your post. I identified with your experience in many aspects. Although some of our circumstances are a bit different, we share some common experiences and feelings toward them. Similar to your experience of being upset by people’s expressed negativity toward women at age sixteen; I recall being appalled and disgusted listening to my father and my step-mother speaking negatively about my mother because of her “single” status, as if she had done something wrong. Ironically, my mother became single as a result of years of my father’s infidelity. So hypocritical were they, to take on a perspective of being “holier than thou,” simply because they were now married, and my mother was not. It was as if they believed that their marriage had erased his having broken his vows; and now they somehow saw fit to judge and criticize my mother who was nothing but a representation of true values and moral character; and for whom I have more respect, love and appreciation than the two of them and the whole congregation put together.

    Around this same time, I also recall a very uneasy feeling in the pit of my stomach from listening to the sermons in our church. They were often condemning women, blaming women, speaking of single women as being evil and unworthy, and spoke of them as being to blame for the ills of society, whether it be drugs, sex, violence, divorce. I was also angered by the way they treated my mother when she was struggling to make ends meet. They would call her up demanding her to pay her “dues” if she wanted to remain an active and worthy member of the congregation. I was further angered by the hypocrisy of the church’s claims to being opposed to infidelity and divorce; yet they saw fit to grant my father an “annulment” of his first marriage ( for a fee), as well as allowing him to marry his girlfriend 20 years his junior in the church. This seemed to support the idea that one could “buy” forgiveness, salvation and righteousness, which is contrary to what they preach. My father and his wife were forgiven with a couple of hail Mary’s, but my mother walked around with an invisible scarlet letter on her sweater that belonged on my father’s back.

    I too was heartbroken to hear women judging and gossiping about other women, and how they stigmatized and ostracized single women. I share with you the instinctive insight as a young child that knew better than some of the adults around me, but couldn’t share my thoughts as one could not challenge the assumed “knowledge” of grown ups; regardless of the fact that they were clueless, shallow, small-minded and transparent. I had to quietly withstand listening to someone who “knew it all,” tell me who I was, what I was like, and listen to her pseudo psychological explanations of some imaginary disorder that she dreamed up and insisted on perpetuating, while simultaneously working on taking control of my father and basically creating tension between us to justify her prompting him to “wash his hands” of me. To this day she does not know that even at twelve years old I saw right through her, and knew exactly what her motivation was. I pity her foolishness and her petty ways and I know that her biggest fear is to be in my mother’s shoes. That is why she views me as a “threat,” because her security blanket is my father’s home and fireman’s pension. It was crucial for her to remove me as an obstacle to her succession to the throne.

    I had many moments of clarity throughout my short-lived association with the Roman Catholic Church. When asked about my religious affiliation, I identify as a “recovering Catholic” as I am still healing from the abusive system that I believe does a substantial amount of damage to all members of society. Funny how people seldom connect their dysfunction or conflicted souls to the source from which it originated. The revelation that spoke to my very soul remains clear in my mind to this day. One summer day, my mother and I went to church. I was wearing typical summer day weather.. Navy blue shorts, and a light blue summer top, with rainbow spaghetti straps, and two little white buttons that were just there for decoration. I was not yet developed, and so there was no possible justification of being “revealing” or anything that could be interpreted as disrespect. I took my place in line to receive communion and began reciting the “Lord I’m not worthy to receive you” mantra in my head, and made my way up to the front. I held my palms up to the priest, who proceeded to turn me away, denying me the host, and scolding me for not being “dressed appropriately in the house of the lord.” He took his misguided overblown self-appointed authority (while falsely identifying as a representative of the word of God) a step further by announcing to the entire congregation at the end of the mass that we should have respect and dress up in our “Sunday best” when coming to the house of the Lord.

    I will never forget that in that very moment, as a twelve year old child, I was comforted and reassured by God that this man knew not of what he spoke, and he did not represent the word of God. I had the wisdom in my soul that MY God would accept me whether I was in rags, or naked, whether I was rich, or poor and that God would never turn me away, regardless if I was dirty, unkempt, and regardless of whether or not I had anything to offer. I was more pure and closer to God and certainly more worthy than this shell of a man would have me or anyone else believe. That was my pivotal moment that let me know that it was all a lie, that men were flawed and certainly not worthy of dangerous positions of powerful influence; and regardless of the false messages that the imposters of “religion” feed the unknowing lambs as they lead them to slaughter, i reject their misogynist cult and affirm:I AM WORTHY!!!!

    Any institution or “religion” that is built on the foundational principle that dictates and reinforces the message: “i’m not worthy,” obviously has ulterior motives and is using God and religion as a front to pursue its own ends and should thus be held as suspect.

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    • Thank you so much for sharing your story. This is what I mean that I find comfort in a feminist environment that we can uplift one another. And of course you are worthy and no one in any church should tell you differently.

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  8. i think you are more a freedomfighter601 — the advanced graduate program! what an awful thing a priest would do to a 12 year old girl. is the place getting worse with time? thanks for this story, and i’m glad you found your own voice ff.

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  9. Shannon,

    (This is So from CLST Feminist & Queer Theory)

    Wow. Thank you for sharing this. I’m so glad this space is here. As a first year MA student at CGU in WSR, it’s really interesting to witness how this blog can bridge the often compartmentalized spaces of academia and personal life, public & private space. I think at its root it is a very feminist endeavor, and it’s so powerful.

    You and Amanda are inspiring me to write a post.

    Thank you again for reflecting and taking the time to share it all with us!

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    • So:
      I completely agree that a blog can bridge the gap between academic life and personal life. I think that the more that I study in school the more I feel empowered to share my past with the people I study with. This is my feminist root, that I am in fact power, and the more I study (especially here) I know that women are the power. I think that you should write one! I am very excited to read it.
      Shannon

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  10. Dear Shannon I enjoy reading your blog, I feel you and many ways, I agree all paths lead to God and we all have a different opinion about God.

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  11. Yikes, I think I have a doppelganger…same name, and I have a BA in History as well. I’m also a big lingerie fan. :) I think you must be my evil twin.

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