Social Engagement as Feminist Praxis in the lives of Patricia A. Reif & Rita Nakashima Brock By Teresa A. Yugar


Today our country and global community need religious leaders to utilize their theological education and feminist principles to model the formation of ally ships across ecumenical and interfaith perspectives, laying the foundation for a more just and peaceful society. While Reif and Nakashima Brock did not know each other, their feminist stance of commitment to social justice and praxis should give us pause.

In 2002, Claremont Graduate University and the Immaculate Heart Community collaborated and created an endowment to sponsor a Lectureship in honor of the memory of feminist teacher, scholar and activist, Dr. Patricia A. Reif. Each year the Dr. Patricia A. Reif committee invites cutting edge feminist scholars in religion to discuss the intersection of their research interests and its influence on their scholarship, activist work and teaching in the broader sense of the term, both inside and outside of the classroom. This year the Reverend Dr. Nakashima Brock is the select guest Lecturer to honor Reif’s life, memory, and legacy. Tammi Schneider, committee member and Dean of the School of Religion stated Nakashima Brock’s visit is timely because in three weeks the national U.S. presidential elections will define the trajectory of our country for, minimally, the next four years. Nakashima Brock’s involvement in the Occupy Movement on a local and national level extends from her feminist commitment and advocacy for the rights of the 99% of our country who are being squelched by U.S. policies that favor the elite 1% of our nation. For Nakashima Brock it is a moral imperative for persons of faith and goodwill to educate individuals and take a stand on policies, on a state and nation-wide level that safeguard the livelihoods of the majority poor of our country. For Nakashima Brock this means quality health care for all, living wages and decent jobs, free high quality public education through college, and an end to the prison-military-industrial complex.

Nakashima Brock’s foundation, “Faith Voices for the Common Good,” further reflects her feminist agenda that for transformative change to happen in our society it is critical individuals representing interfaith, ecumenical and grassroots movements work together for a common goal: the human dignity of all persons and the Earth herself. Nakashima Brock is a model feminist for us in a twenty-first century context where individuals, distraught by their economic realities, are able to reclaim their agency by critiquing patriarchal structures collectively, while at the same time, maintaining hope and encouraging each other that a more just society is possible. Today our country and global community need religious leaders to utilize their theological education and feminist principles to model the formation of ally ships across ecumenical and interfaith perspectives, laying the foundation for a more just and peaceful society. While Reif and Nakashima Brock did not know each other, their feminist stance of commitment to social justice and praxis should give us pause.  Both Reif and Nakashima Brock serve as models for feminist praxis, moving beyond word to action and the common good. And like these two kindred spirits, I too hope to move forward a feminist agenda of a theology of feminist praxis that reclaims the full humanity of all peoples. Inspired by Reif and Brock, my research interests and activist commitments also critique patriarchy in its multiple manifestations in the Roman Catholic church. Among the most immanent challenges that Catholic women face are the churches investigation of American nuns, reprimands of women theologians, and the churches’ financial efforts to ban reproductive rights for women. In my activist work, I am one of a collective network of feminists who are working for women’s rights in the church. They are, Women Church Convergence, Women’s Ordination Conference, The Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual, and the Roman Catholic Womenpriest Movement. Together, our work is strategically more influential as a result of our feminist collaboration for a renewed church and world.

Memories of Dr. Patricia A. Reif still linger in the hearts of individuals who knew her and were inspired by her passionate commitment to social justice issues for the poor and women. For Reif, it is inadequate to simply be critical of patriarchal structures and ideologies if one is not actively engaged in the work of social justice. In fact, her legacy is her maxim, “You cannot be a Feminist without Praxis.”  Today, the need for feminist critiques of patriarchal systems and ideologies continue. The image of the broken body of Pakistinian Malala Yousufzai comes to mind. Metaphorically, Her body is the landscape of collective tragedies and injustices women continue to endure on a global level. It is a stark reminder to all of us that feminism is still relevant in our times. In the first blog of this series the question posed to renown Catholic Feminist Theologian Rosemary Radford Reuther was is feminism still relevant in our times.  She responded, “To ask if it [feminism] is still relevant in 2011 is to have a very dim and inadequate grasp of the vastness of the feminist task, and the extent of the human history in so many different cultures around the world have been deformed and are still being deformed by patriarchy.” The work continues. In the midst of it all the legacy of the aforementioned women spurs me to continue to advocate and envision a more just world for all.

For those living in the greater Los Angeles area, Dr. Rita Nakashima Brock will deliver her lecture, “Saving Paradise: Moral Conscience, Beauty, and the Glory of Humanity,” addressing the Christian understanding of collective salvation, especially as it was drawn from the Hebrew Bible and reiterated in the Gospels.  Brock will focus, especially, on the love of beauty and on moral responsibility as crucial dimensions of life. She will link her work in “Saving Paradise” to her new book with Gabriella Lettini, “Soul Repair” (Beacon Press, November 2012), and to her involvement with the Occupy Movement.

Nakashima Brock will speak Monday, October 22 at 7:00 pm, at Mount St. Mary’s Doheny campus in Los Angeles, and Tuesday, October 23 at 7:00 pm, at Claremont Graduate University’s campus.

For more information see http://www.cgu.edu/pages/9428.asp or contact Theresa Yugar at theresayugar@gmail.com.

Theresa A. Yugar is a constructive Latina feminist liberation theologian. She is a Ph.D. candidate at Claremont Graduate University in the Women’s Studies in Religion program. Her scholarship and activist work centers on gender and ecological justice. She is a Christian Religious educator and active member of the Women’s Ordination Conference, Women’s Alliance for Theology Ethics and Ritual, Women Church, local and national, and most recently the Roman Catholic Womenpriest Movement.



Categories: Activism, Feminism, Foremothers, General

Tags: , , , , ,

4 replies

  1. What I respect most about Pat Reif was her commitment to social justice/common good independent of her CV. Whatever she took on was to promote a feminist stance that brought the disenfranchised to the table. She was the real deal. How many PhD students or graduates can honestly say their CV reflect this kind of soulful commitment? I include myself in this important reflection.

    Thank you Theresa for your continued commitment to a feminist stance of praxis and an ethic of hope.

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  2. Thank you too, Cynthie for your continued commitment to a feminist stance of praxis and an ethic of hope as well. Peace.

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  3. Theresa, Women unite and in our strength, either separate or together, we have valuable things to say, but it is up to us ot make the world a better place because we have suffered and know what it takes to eradicate the causes of that suffering, voicelessness and victimhood.
    We can do this with the amazing inspiration of the women around us like Ms. Brock and all those women around us that we know and love including those of us who have daughters and are demonstrating how we make the world a better place by raising the next generation of women in consciousness to build a healthy world in relationship with family, community and with faith and the love that comes with faith that supports us all along the way and has produced so many active women. I am proud to know all of you and I am humbled by so much that those before me have accomplished, are accomplishing and will accomplish a we struggle together to make the world an equal place for all humanity. Thank you for this!

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    • Janice, I appreciate your comment. It touched on a theme that I wanted to include in my reflection on these two women. The significance of consciousness-raising within our respective communities of accountability with regards to gender-eco-justice issues. I believe for many feminists they can identify key moments in their lives where they were made connections between patriarchal ideologies, social structures, and the disempowerment of women. For many women, like myself, this awareness evolved from personal experiences of exclusion and the realization that my voice and theological perspective are ranked lower in a hierarchical and paternalistic world. It concerns me that a new generation of feminists who have reaped the benefits of our foremothers do not see the need for a feminist perspective. This is not all women. It is just an observation that the work of consciousness-raising and advocacy for a gender-justice perspective is still very much needed. As feminists, as well, I think it is very important that we remember the her-stories of the pioneering women in our field who paved the way for women to have a voice not only in feminist studies but in public life as well. The work continues. It is comforting to know that I, or we, are not alone in our work for a more just world for all.

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