“Why do you stay?” It is a question I am often asked when I reveal my Catholic feminist identity. It is not lost on me that such a question is one that is often posed to women in abusive relationships. First, let me say, I don’t ever think it is appropriate to pose such a question to women experiencing domestic violence. This said, I also want to be clear that I in no way view my relationship with my faith as abusive.
Yes, the Vatican is patriarchal and it is true that women are relegated to the underside of dualism in the Church. There are so many ways that women are oppressed in Christianity and there are many issues that need to be reexamined – and from a non-male perspective. Nonetheless, I believe that the foundation of my faith offers a very different message; one that is liberating and honors my gifts as a person and as a woman.
Working on my latest project, the anthology Faithfully Feminist: Jewish, Christian, and Muslim Feminists on Why We Stay, has been an incredibly rewarding experience. First, co-editing alongside Jennifer Zobair and Amy Levin has been truly a gift. And then, to have the opportunity to engage the stories of so many amazing women has been powerful, heartbreaking, uplifting, and so much more. It is in one another’s experiences that we see ourselves and find that we are not alone and that has certainly been my experience with this project.
Faithfully Feminist has reminded me that I am not alone on my journey and that my commitment to my faith is not in vain. I certainly appreciate that my path is not the path for every feminist. Mary Daly, Carol Christ, and so many other women continue to create positive social change working from outside of patriarchal religious traditions. Every contribution is critical. However, we each choose the appropriate path for ourselves and that choice should always be respected.
I am a mother to a six-year-old daughter. I am raising her Catholic and I see how the tradition – with my guidance – is impacting her in a positive way. My religion has feminist potential; I would never consider sharing it with my daughter if it did not. And so, I interweave my faith with feminism and bring together tradition, culture, empowerment, and justice in a way that informs who I am and offers the foundation I want for my daughter. This is why I stay.
I hope you will consider joining the conversation on Twitter by sharing why you stay using the hashtags #WhyIStay and #FaithfullyFeminist.
Gina Messina-Dysert, Ph.D., is Dean of the School of Graduate and Professional Studies at Ursuline College and Co-founder of Feminism and Religion. She is the author of Rape Culture and Spiritual Violence (Routledge, 2014), and co-editor of Feminism and Religion in the 21st Century (Routledge, 2014) and Faithfully Feminist (White Cloud Press, 2015). She is a widely sought after speaker and has presented across the US at universities, organizations, conferences, and in the national news circuit including appearances on Tavis Smiley and MSNBC. Gina’s WATER Teleconference, “In Search of Healing: Confronting Rape Culture and Spiritual Violence,” can be accessed here. She has also spoken at the Commission on the Status of Women at the United Nations to discuss matters impacting the lives women around the globe. She is active in movements to end violence against women and explores opportunities for spiritual healing for those who have encountered gender-based violence. Gina can be followed on Twitter @FemTheologian and her website can be accessed at http://ginamessinadysert.com.