Faithfully Feminist by Gina Messina-Dysert

Gina Messina-Dysert profile“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.

final-cover-faithfully-feministFaithfully 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.

Faithfully Feminist is now available for pre-order through the publisher for a 25% discount or on Amazon.

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

Categories: Catholicism, Feminism, Feminism and Religion, Feminist Theology

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8 replies

  1. I was born Calvinist (Evangelical and Reformed, which is now United Church of Christ) in St. Louis. When confirmation time came along, I asked so many questions in class that the minister phoned my mother. “Tell her to stop asking those questions.” So I stopped. For a while. But I didn’t stay. First I was Unitarian Universalist, and then I studied the Aramaic Bible (translated from the 4th century Aramaic Pshitta manuscripts), and then the Goddess called me. I think women who stay in the patriarchal, standard-brand churches are brave. They’ve obviously found something I never found there. Good for them! I hope they can make changes in their churches.

    And good luck with your book! I hope lots of women and men read it.


  2. Re Barbara Ardinger’s comment on bravery… There is a wonderful book by Carolyn O’Seik RSCJ entitled “Beyond Anger – Being a Feminist in the Church”. In it she talks about the personal transformation that is required to stay. Not being a Catholic myself I have found it to be a unique resource and have referred to it OFTEN!

    I have found it difficult to enjoy being both feminist and religious/spiritual as they both suffer from a negative valence. I too found the Goddess to be my best alternative. I am attracted to different facets of her as I journey on that path.

    Blessings on you for founding this site.


  3. Congratulations on your new book and more power to you!


  4. I read your post early this morning, and then got involved in following your links and watching the video about Feminist Theologies! Yesterday I phoned one of the sisters I lived with here, who now lives in Toronto. She has a richness of resources, community with other women, women-church, etc. I live on an island! I’m grateful for places like FAR, and online communities, and posts that stimulate and support me on my journey.
    Thank you all!


  5. If a cjurch refused to ordain black men, would you still be a part of it? The Catholic church as an institution is one of the most womanhating, woman destroying institutions on planet earth. Women are the only oppressed group in the world expected to support their oppressors. There are loads of churches where women have full rights within the church. I just never ceased to be shocked at the women who support the enemy. We are in a time of feminist backlash so deep now, that staying in the church is considered feminist, it isn’t. It is collaboration.


    • There is something that some people treasure in the RC Church that is deeper and more enriching than the actions of a few males who think they are in control. That “something” is also a source of strength and wisdon for people, men and women, who are working to change oppressive structures both within and outside the church.

      It seems to me that Feminism is to bring people together – our real problems are in dividing people into “us” and “them”. Isn’t that the basis of Patriarchy?


      • I’m glad you posted this Barbara Ardinger. When I began my journey in Christianity I chose to join a liberal protestant tradition. As I encountered the Goddess I began to note that the images of the divine in this liberal protestant tradition were almost exclusively male. The church was only always “moving towards” becoming feminist and the symbols no longer “fit”… as I travelled with the Goddess and encountered some of her many aspects eventually I “fell for Mary”. I won’t be joining the Roman Catholic tradition any time soon but my views of it changed in a way that I had never anticipated


  6. I myself have wondered why progressive women have stayed in the Catholic faith.

    Yes, it is patriarchal.

    Yes, it yields to progress at a pace which is best described as glacial

    Women have long been the backbone of the church.

    Just ask the sisters who labored in overcrowded classrooms.

    Just ask the Sodality members who mended vestments and sponsored bake sales.

    Then I realize that the church belongs to them as it does to the patriarchy.

    I can understand why some women have left.

    I can also understand why some have stayed.


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