I started writing this post a day after news broke that beloved activist, poet, feminist, and academic, bell hooks had passed away. This news comes months after our FAR community lost Carol Christ; another academic, feminist, writer, and maker of history. This post was finished as almost three weeks into a new year has gone by. The advent of 2022 is filled with the last two years’ heavy, unbelievable, heartbreaking, and extraordinary experiences and events.
And in the last few months and weeks, others have posted moving tributes to both Carol and bell. It’s a testament to their work, their passions, and their significance. It is also a significant way for us to mourn. I wanted to add my voice, my experiences, and my journey through this grief.
Carol’s works are seminal works in the early years of Feminist scholarship in this country, she was on the forefront of the goddess and divine feminine movements, and so much more in progressing the realms of social consciousness. We here at FAR held the honor of having Carol write posts, share her life, and fire, and blaze a trail for the futures ahead. Not only would Carol post her own writings, in the early years of FAR, but she would also comment and engage with other writers and their posts, myself included.
Outside of FAR, one of the things I will always treasure is the while I was in my first years of graduate studies, Carol was invited to attend one of the monthly Women’s Studies in Religion Salons at Claremont Graduate University. This was a profound moment of being able to meet the person who’s work you had just been studying. Not only that but also in the room was Rosemary Radford Ruether and Karen Torjesen. What a powerhouse of fundamental matriarchs in religious feminist scholarship! It truly was a magical moment. I ended up sitting across from Carol during dinner and we started to talk about goddesses. I told her how I was contemplating focusing on Goddess Traditions in India. She expressed how important and rewarding it would be. I will treasure that until the end of my days.
While I came to the works of Carol after I had already been moved towards feminism and gender studies and largely was intertwined with my general religious studies training, bell hooks and her works were the very first pieces I consumed that talked about feminism and empowerment. Her work was required reading in a Sociology Gender and Race course. I keenly remember reading her words and realized not only the fundamental truths but also that I had so much dismantling to do in my own life. I had fought for years against being labeled as a ‘feminist’ as it had largely been depicted in the media as being ‘bra burning, man-hating, anarchists’ and did not fit into my family’s borderline conservative Catholic household. (Now, with wisdom, distance, and years I can value all forms of feminism including the bra burning anarchists!)
bell hooks is one of my north stars. She was one of the quintessential light bulbs, aha moment. She was able to incapsulate in simple yet powerful ways the turmoil that I was experiencing living in a gender bias society, the hollowness that I was struggling with regarding the faith I had grown up in due to the lack of the divine feminine, and the importance of be a positive force of change. Her works, her passion, were the keys to which I was able to unlock the doors and find deeper meaning and understanding.
hook’s writings continually followed me as I progressed in my own academic endeavors and personal journeys. As I started to gain confidence in my feminism, my activism, and my voice, it was hook’s works that I shared and recommended. I have bought countless copies of her book “Feminism is For Everyone” and given them away to friends and family members. Many of which have come back to me and expressed they own ‘aha’ moments, their own awakenings. The day of hook’s passing, me and one of my best friends talked on the phone for hours expressing our grief, our appreciation, and how thankful we were to have all her writings.
When I started to prepare my first courses as a college professor, I picked up hook’s pedagogical books “Teaching to Transgress”, “Teaching Critical Thinking” and “Teaching Community”. The professor I am today, is influenced and molded by bell. Each day that I am able to research and teach gender, queer theory, and goddess traditions it is partly due to the hard work that both Carol and bell put in. And I would wager that this rings true for many of us here at FAR and beyond.
The grief and sadness are powerful with the passing of Carol and bell. After the tidal wave of shock and grief, the mantra I held onto was that we are honored to have lived while these two extraordinary figures lived. And it is an honor to continue in their memory.
Anjeanette LeBoeuf has recently traded in the sunny days of California for the ever changing seasons of the Midwest. Anjeanette is currently the World Religions Professor at Saint Louis University. She continues to be the Queer Advocate for the Western Region of the American Academy of Religion. She has also recently helped to set up and is the current Chair of the Disabilities Studies Unit for the Western Region. Her focuses are divided between South Asian religions and religion and popular culture. One of the main themes in Anjeanette’s work is seeking out representations of women and queer people in all forms of popular culture and how religion plays into them. She looks forward to exploring St. Louis in the coming months.