I remember being in Korea for the 2009 International Women’s World Congress with Hye Sook Hwang and Inhui Lee and many (many) others and realizing then in ways I had not before, how crucial feminist scholarly friendships are to not just my work –but my sanity. The way we see things and the way we talk about things makes sense in a way that many times the rest of the world does not make sense. I re-member, to use Mary Daly’s phrasing, Hye Sook’s Magu scholarship that awakened in me and many others the Goddess magic of Korea. I re-member Inhui’s work with the female shamans of Korea and their rituals to honor and memorialize with honor the “comfort” women—Korean women used as sexual slaves by the Japanese during World War II. I went to that conference on the urging of Hye Sook and came home from that conference with new lifelong friends—among them Inhui. At that time none of us were doctors—now we all are.
I am thinking today of how important the work of women’s studies in religion is in terms of looking at people’s lives, how they live and what has been overlooked. For what is lived– and overlooked? I can remember the women’s work that was being created during my doctoral studies—Jay Houston’s work on the Holocaust women, Kahena Viale’s work on sacred dance, Jackie Heacock’s work on pregnant women’s sacrality, and my work on pre-Stonewall gay women’s lives as religious – just to name a few. We were not/are not re-searching –to use another Mary Daly-ism. We could not re-search—what we wanted had often never been searched. In order to do the women’s studies work we needed to do we had to create the data base in order to do the research within it. Which is why so many of us do primary research—ethnographies, new translations for feminist Biblical scholars, essentially creating and then re-framing the gaze on new research and then new scholarship.
I am reminded today of how much I love (and need) women’s studies scholars (and of course these gender as both male and female). When I went to the Pat Rief lecture this fall at Claremont Graduate University, Reverend Rita Nakamishi Brock spoke of her research on excavating a new vision of atonement theology. There actually are no images of dead Jesus before 906 A.D. she informed her audience. She herself went to Italy and “brought back the broomstick” –as in, ‘do this difficult task which seems impossible and bring back the broomstick’, says the wizard—which is often how feminist scholarship particularly feels. Her meticulously researched version of atonement theology shows us a people striving for life. We are left recognizing and/or worshipping a Jesus birthed into the world, not dying from this world. Listening to her I was transported—and not just by her talk, but by her passion that somewhere out there this material existed and she persevered and found it. And I was reminded that although many times I did not enjoy graduate school (I worked full-time throughout it at two part-time jobs, which I still have as I wait to get that full-time job, and it took me over a decade to finish!) that often for me graduate school had as much to do with “creating my career” as it had to do with sitting in a room with people who re-framed the world for me. Who went out and brought back the broomstick again and again. This is feminism and religion.
I believe it was Gloria Steinem who said, “Feminism is the radical notion that women are people.” Yes. It took twelve years for “Dr. Cartier” to emerge and so often I thought “Is it worth it?” and I forgot that what was happening during that time was not just the creation of “Dr. Cartier” but the saving of Marie and my mind from a patriarchal world. Dr. Karen Torjesen wrote When Women Were Priests and founded the Women’s Studies in Religion program at Claremont Graduate University from which I graduated. That is the kind of scholarship I found in graduate school—the kind that spins the known re-search on its head and envisions the world with women at the center and re-frames not just the scholarship but the known world. That for me was and remains “the good news.”
Finding, saving and recording our “herstory” has been a challenge, a joy, a revolution and a gift. It is about spinning the prism so that we see a future of splintered light that was not seen before. And at the dissertation stage it is often about making that original contribution which often feels like creating the prism not just spinning it to another angle. The other fields of feminist biblical translations, exegesis from feminist perspectives, hermeneutics, feminist theology, cultural studies, and philosophy that feminist scholars in religious studies create allows us all of to re-frame our gaze not just on our fields but on the world and ourselves. I don’t think it is too great a claim to say this. We deal in the transcendent, the field of deep meaning and illumination. If we are not re-creating and re-visioning the world—we are not doing our job. We are here to make anew. Creating work with women at the center is sometimes creating the wheel. And sometimes it is not—thanks to community. Today I give that community thanks. Thank you feminism and religion—our larger world and this blog—as we practice what Nelle Morton suggested– hearing women into speech.
As the New Year approaches I give gratitude to you in the feminism and religion community and ask that we hold fast to and re-member our passion. It is a radical notion to listen to women enough so that they know they are being heard. For it is only then that we will ever hear her story/herstory.
Marie Cartier is a teacher, poet, writer, healer, artist, and scholar. She holds a BA in Communications from the University of New Hampshire; an MA in English/Poetry from Colorado State University; an MFA in Theatre Arts (Playwriting) from UCLA; an MFA in Film and TV (Screenwriting) from UCLA; and an MFA in Visual Art (Painting/Sculpture) from Claremont Graduate University. She is also a first degree black belt in karate, Shorin-Ryu Shi-Do-Kan Kobayashi style. Ms. Cartier has a Ph.D. in Religion with an emphasis on Women and Religion from Claremont Graduate University.