The New Feminist Revolution in Religion by Gina Messina-Dysert

Gina Messina-Dysert CGUThis week I will be attending the American Academy of Religion/Society of Biblical Literature (AAR/SBL) Conference in Baltimore Maryland.  In celebration of the second anniversary of Feminism and Religion and the continued efforts of feminists in the field within the digital world, Xochitl Alvizo and I will lead a roundtable discussion on the intersection of feminism, religion, and technology – or what I refer to as the new feminist revolution in religion.

Reflecting on two years of blogging and engaging in dialogue within a global community reveals how powerful a platform social media can be.   Small gatherings in living rooms, classrooms and coffee shops have grown into global conversations.  Borders are being expanded and new frontiers are being built as the feminist revolution in religion continues to grow and evolve.

The concept of this blogging project – Feminism and Religion – was inspired by Mormon feminism, The Exponent, and the work of Caroline Kline.  With a mission of “exploring the f-word in religion and the intersection between scholarship, activism, and community,” Xochitl Alvizo, Cynthia Garrity-Bond, Caroline Kline, and I collaborated to weave together a space where dialogue on such issues would be welcome.  The project raised many interesting questions between the four of us.  Initially, as the co-founders of FAR, we were faced with real dilemmas about feminist leadership, inclusion, and dialogue.  From leadership responsibilities to our logo, to writing styles and qualifications, to technological positives and limitations, we found that feminist praxis proved far more challenging than our theorizing in graduate school.

All this said, with the encouragement and support of foresisters and the enthusiasm of the next generation of feminist scholars and activists, FAR has flourished.  Its second anniversary is celebrated with a community that extends across 181 countries and every continent around the world.  No doubt, FAR has allowed significant conversations to ensue that might not otherwise taken place. Likewise, the contributions of The Feminism in Religion Forum, The Exponent, Ordain Women, and other sites have been instrumental in expanding borders in the field.  Because of this, barriers – at the very least – are being cracked and perhaps even broken and the new feminist revolution in religion has advanced.

There are certainly limitations to technology, however I think the many positives that have resulted must also be acknowledged.  Where women’s participation in religious traditions has generally been suppressed because of patriarchy, the digital world has offered tools of liberation.  Women are sharing their own stories, challenging tradition, and calling for change on a platform that offers them a voice that reaches around the globe.

While we must acknowledge limitations, we must also celebrate the great strides technology has enabled and continue to examine possibilities to further feminist dialogue in religion and overall.  Engaging in a roundtable discussion at the national AAR/SBL Conference seems a great way to continue the conversation.  If you are available, I hope you will join us.

The session will be held Sunday, November 24, 2013 from 2:00:00 PM to 4:00:00 PM in the Camden Room at the Sheraton Inn Harbor.

Please also consider attending Women and Religion at 40 #aarwr40 on Saturday, November 23, 2013 from 4:00 PM to 6:30 PM at the Hilton Baltimore Key-4.  You can join the conversation through the media project here.

Articles of interest: AAR/SBL Tips for Feminists and Others by Mary E. Hunt

What is the Future of the study of Women and Religion by Kate Ott

 Gina Messina-Dysert, Ph.D. is a feminist theologian, ethicist, and activist.  She is Dean of the School of Graduate and Professional Studies at Ursuline College and Co-founder of Feminism and Religion.  In addition, Gina has taught at universities across the US including Claremont Graduate UniversityLoyola Marymount University, John Carroll University and Notre Dame College.   Gina has authored multiple articles and the forthcoming book Rape Culture and Spiritual Violence, and is co-editor (with Rosemary Radford Ruether) of the forthcoming anthology, Feminism and Religion in the 21st Century. Her research interests are theologically and ethically driven, involve a feminist and interdisciplinary approach, and are influenced by her activist roots and experience working with survivors of rape and domestic violence.  Gina can be followed on Twitter @FemTheologian and her website can be accessed at http://ginamessinadysert.com.


Categories: Academy, Activism, Feminism

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

15 replies

  1. I so enjoy our community and am so glad our audience is growing. Aside for our contributors, I don’t see that many feminist academics in our field online here. Maybe the AAR session will prove otherwise. I wonder, why are they not engaging? Because we cross religious boundaries? Because we include “non-academics”? Or are feminists in religion reading us but not commenting? Maybe you will find something out at the AAR.

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  2. Congratulations and gratitude to all of you who started FAR and faithfully maintain it. Trusting all goes well at AAR and that, as Carol suggest, academics will be incited to join in the conversation.

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  3. Hi Carol,

    Thanks so much for your comment here. You are correct about the lack of academic participation in dialogue – and this isn’t something unique to FAR. If you visit FSRInc.org, you will see that an engagement in dialogue is also missing. The question is why? I think there are several answers.

    First, as we all know, the academic life is a busy one and I think we often choose not to comment based simply on time. That is something I constantly struggle with.

    I also think that many of read a post, take something away, and share it with others without commenting about the direct impact the article had on us. I cannot tell you how many times I get a “behind the scenes” comment from someone via email or Facebook. People do not always want to publicly share their thoughts but do so privately. Often the articles shared here are having a great impact and are encouraging further conversation without the full visibility offered in the comment section.

    And finally, I think some do not fully appreciate the impact that blogs can have – disappointing for sure.

    All this said, it is my hope we can continue to build those conversations here in the comment section – but I am also grateful that FAR is playing a role in expanding conversations in other ways.

    Thanks again, Carol. You are truly a leader when it comes to keeping the conversation growing and evolving. And, I welcome your thoughts on why you think there are not more feminist academics participating in the conversation on site.

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  4. I am also glad to be part of the FAR community. What I especially like is that the bloggers represent a wide variety of religions and traditions. I remember the feminist “revolution” of the 1970s and 80s and how the word “feminist” almost became another “F-word” for several years among a lot of people who said they were mainstream believers. I think this community is redeeming the word and giving people who read the blogs new things to think about. That’s good news!

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    • Thanks for your comment, Barbara! I’m so grateful that you are a part of the FAR community and love hearing your perspective! You said: “I think this community is redeeming the word and giving people who read the blogs new things to think about. That’s good news!” YES! That is awesome!

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  5. I’m very encouraged by the facts and ancient wisdom about women’s inherent sacred natures that I’m learning here. I’ve long been a feminist, but was reluctant to describe myself as such because it WAS an ‘F-word” and came with too much baggage and misunderstanding. From a religious and activist perspective, the world really needs women of all ages to become educated, mature in their creeds/beliefs and to share their experiences. (And in my local church, it’s the women who make social justice initiatives HAPPEN!)

    Together, we can build bridges with each other and gradually tear down the structures which impede us, children and all the marginalised. Keep moving forward, sisters!

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  6. I really wish I could be there with you all, but I’m taking a break from the AAR this year. The internet has been key to organizing for me and for my community.

    Frankly, without Facebook we would never be able to spread the word about gender-equal/lgbtq-affirming mosques.

    But back in 2005 I started a website called progressiveislam.org with a friend. We got, not kidding, nearly 2 million individual users a day. It was a website for Muslims to discuss religious “dirty laundry” in public. We were not there to explain ourselves to non-Muslims. Non-Muslims were welcome to listen in and ask questions specific to the context of the discussions we were having, but no questions that required us to have to answer for “Muslims” or explain why we are not terrorists or doing enough to combat terrorism. The blog software allowed for anyone to sign up to blog themselves on the site. We could then promote those blog entries to the front page if we liked or even promote one of the bloggers to the front page as a regular contributor. We had women’s health pages devoted to issues that were not typically being discussed in public such as marital rape, rape, sexual abuse, queer and straight sexuality, etc. A lot of work got done there. But it was a lot of work to run, so I had to let it go after about two years. I think the thing that really helped our blog be so popular was the timing (just after Dr. Wadud’s prayer) and soon enough after 9/11 (we also did a wiki on the Muhammad Cartoon issue). A number of academics posted there and an array of people linked their blogs there. I really had to do a lot of work managing the content and took a lot of time selling it among my colleagues and get them to share their academic work in lay language on the site. It was not easy. I mean, I was probably spending on average 5 hours a day on the site. Somedays less, other days more. The blogging site FAR uses does not allow for the kind of website we ran (drupal) that allowed anyone to start their own blog under our banner. We had our own dedicated website. The blogging community really got a lot of people committed to the conversations there….from all over the world. Okay, enough rambling….

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  7. I LOVE FAR! I love the conversations it engenders. I love its breadth. Hearing about the feminist wedges that are nudging/pushing their way into a variety of religious organizations is so empowering for all of us and our work.

    I’m glad to discover the roots of this endeavor and the four of you who keep it going. Thank you, Gina, Xochitl, Caroline, and Cynthia! Good luck at the AAR/SBL conference.

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  8. I think a lot of feminists are not religious, and I know tons of lesbians who just wouldn’t find much engagement here, unless you’re an academic. It seems very academicky and kind of in groupy here. Just saying. There are a few things that I’ve liked here, especially what feminism looks like in Greece, but I must say, a lot of it is kind of go along to get along as a straight woman in evil male churches, but it’s about that. Going to church is not a feminist act, it is just going to church. Being married to a man is NOT a feminist issue. It is about hetero church family life and male authors of ancient texts, so it is more women study husbands mormon catholic— it’s about that. Things get labeled feminism just because women do them, but this is not the case.

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    • hey turtle woman, I am glad you are on this blog. but come on, some women who are married to men are doing more to change the world for all women than some lesbians are. some women in the churches are working from where they are to change the world. as you know, I could not stay in the church, though I did not feel pulled towards lesbianism, so…why are you always assuming that heterosexual women cannot be feminists or that women in the church can’t either. from my point of view we need you, me, gina, caroline kline, and amina, and everyone in between or farther out, if we are going to forge a feminist revolution.

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  9. It seems liberal not revolution.

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  10. I do hope the AAR meeting would drum up more awareness about and support for cyber forums in general FAR in particular .

    As a dedicated gypsy I once spoke at the end of a meeting when women and men present from about 15 countries gave their closing thoughts relative to their local circumstances. I said, my community is cyber.

    I could not keep up with friends, family and fantastic feminist ideas were it not for this. And while there is still a North/South divide regarding equal access, it is not a reason for those with access to avoid using it as a tool for empowerment and mutual support.

    I know FAR is heading for the full affect of that tool and I am grateful to you. Keep up the good work!

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  11. Congratulations to FAR on her second anniversary–or as some say, blogaversary. This is a terrific blog and I very much appreciate the multiplicity of viewpoints and paths. I hope it continues to be inclusive of the many different ways we are finding to combine feminism and religion.

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  12. This blog has been a forum in so many ways for us to talk about so many issues that concern us. I’ve learned a great deal and the thinking that goes on inside and outside of religion is critical to women developing and refining our voices and how we articulate our experience and it is also a role model for younger women. I have a young religion feminist colleague who reads this blog assiduously and gains a lot of courage and inspiration from it. I also recommend this sight to women in my parish as the only way we can move women forward if we are on the ‘inside’ of our denominations –we need to empower one another. I attempt to do this at every level, pastoral and academic because my own philosophy is that the two go hand in hand. Love everyone’s comments and I am proud to be a part of this ever growing, expanding and evolving community that puts spirituality and belief at its center and women in control of their own destinies!!

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