Beyond Act One: Why We Need More Stories about Older Women

We are hard-wired to frame our experience in stories. Almost anything we endure, no matter how painful, can take on a deeper meaning if we see it as one chapter in an overarching narrative. Stories give coherence and meaning to our often fragmented and chaotic lives.

Georgia O’Keeffe lived way beyond Act One!

We live in a youth-obsessed culture. The cosmetic industry pushes wrinkle creams and hair dye on us while celebrities resort to fillers and surgery to preserve an illusion of eternal girlhood. Advancing age, once a mark of honour, has become a source of shame. Popular fiction, literary classics, television, and movies celebrate young heroines, from Elizabeth Bennett to Katniss Everdeen. But where are the stories about older women and why do we all need to hear them?

We live longer than ever before. Women’s lives don’t play out in one act, even though our culture programs us to think that way.  It almost seems a travesty to imagine an older Elizabeth Bennett grown bored of Darcy and yearning to reinvent herself and embrace some new adventure.

Old-school male authors were really big on killing off their young heroines so they couldn’t even dream about maturing into women with agency. Shakespeare merrily committed femicide on Juliet, Ophelia, and Desdemona, to name just a few of his hapless heroines. 

Ophelia drowning. Don’t try this at home.

Why have so many authors, past and present, refused to let their heroines age? Why this reluctance to write about seasoned female protagonists who have been around the block more than once? Perhaps because too many people, even today, consider experienced women threatening. Since the time of witch burnings and scold’s bridles, male-dominated culture has been petrified of older woman who seize their power. That’s why stories about young women with a certain cut-off date are much cosier and less threatening.

But coming-of-age stories can only take us so far. We need to imagine lives beyond Act One, beyond a vague glimmering on the horizon. We need signposts to help us navigate our long and unavoidably complicated modern lives. We live in an age of divorce, blended families, and many of us pursue several careers and many paths of discovery over the course of a single lifetime. Contrary to cultural expectations, women do have exciting, juicy lives after forty and beyond. Contemporary fiction should explore and celebrate this.

Yes, there have been break-out books about older women—Elizabeth Strout’s Olive Kitteridge, and even literary classics, such as Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway—but these are the exceptions that prove the rule. In the publishing marketplace, stories about older women remain a hard sell. Which is bitterly ironic, considering that most fiction is purchased by women over the age of forty.

Yet it’s not just an older audience that needs to read about older heroines. I would argue that girls and young women are in even greater need of literary role models to guide them way beyond a self-limiting Act One.

As a teenager, I was hungry for such stories. Some proof that I had something to look forward to beyond the awfulness of high school (not the best years of my life). Like Holden Caulfield, I was caught in a web of angsty adolescent nihilism which cast everyone from the cheerleaders to the teachers as a chorus of fakes and phonies. I needed a gutsy female role model to pull me out of this miasma.

Eventually I found my heroine, not in the pages of a novel, but in Blackberry Winter, Margaret Mead’s memoir. I was electrified by this strong woman who didn’t give a fuck about preening for the male gaze and yet still had an amazing love life. Born in 1901, in an era when women were programmed for domesticity, she became a pioneering anthropologist and feminist icon. Her memoir, subtitled “My Earlier Years,” is not cut off at Act One, but only ends when she becomes a grandmother. Well into old age, Mead remained a mesmerizing and magnetic presence for being authentically herself.

Mead’s memoir is a rare jewel of female self-confidence in an ocean of women’s self-censorship and self-effacement. In Writing a Woman’s Life, Carolyn G. Heilbrun observes how both biographers and autobiographers have suppressed the truth about lived female experience to force it to conform to society’s script of how a woman’s life should be.

Heilbrun then discusses the Mother of All Female Memoirs, the first to appear in the English language. The Book of Margery Kempe (c. 1436–38) reveals the escapades of a woman mystic who wasn’t enclosed in a cell, but was literally all over the map. Kempe’s call to adventure unfolded amid the bitter disillusionment of midlife. She was forty, a desperate housewife, a failed business woman, a mother of fourteen children, and trapped in an abusive marriage. Marital rape was her lived reality—a fifteenth child might have killed her.

Her story completely exploded my every stereotype of medieval womanhood. Her life choices seem absolutely radical by the standards of our time as well as hers.

Since divorce was not an option, she seized back control by setting off on the perilous pilgrim’s path to Rome, Jerusalem, and Santiago de Compostela. She literally walked away from her unhappy marriage and blazed her trail across Europe and the Near East in an age when very few women traveled, even in the company of their husbands.

Alas, Kempe’s independence and eccentricities drew suspicion. When she returned to England, she found herself on trial for heresy. A guilty verdict would have seen her burned at the stake, yet she kept her spirits high by regaling the Archbishop of York with a parable of a defecating bear and a priest.

Most significantly, the spiritual mentor who stood by Kempe as she made her unorthodox choices was a woman in her seventies, the anchoress Julian of Norwich. Before leaving on her monumental pilgrimage, Kempe sought Julian’s counsel. This was an exceedingly vulnerable time in Kempe’s life. In leaving her husband and children, she had broken all the rules and was filled with self-doubt and uncertainty. Julian’s advice to trust her inner calling and not worry too much about what other people thought seemed to have a profoundly empowering impact on her. While Julian had chosen to wall herself into a cell and live as a religious recluse, she gave Kempe her blessing to wander the wide world.

Kempe’s story would have been lost to history if she hadn’t recorded it in her autobiography, a tremendous act of foresight and courage that made her a literary pioneer. She dictated her story to a priest, who copied it down for her and whose ecclesiastical authority gave gravitas to her narrative.

We are hard-wired to frame our experience in stories. Almost anything we endure, no matter how painful, can take on a deeper meaning if we see it as one chapter in an overarching narrative. Stories give coherence and meaning to our often fragmented and chaotic lives.

Margery Kempe’s story proves that even in the Middle Ages, women had the power to re-invent themselves in midlife and beyond. If Act One disappoints, time to dive feet first into Act Two. We can continually re-vision our own narrative.

Our culture likes to pit women against each other. Divide and conquer. Popular tropes cast young women and older women as rivals or even enemies. In fairy tales a young maiden’s coming of age involves going out into the wild forest to encounter the scary old witch who acts as a foil to the maiden’s youth and innocence.

But if we look past the patriarchal smokescreen, we see that youth and aging are mirrors reflecting one another. The maiden and the witch are not enemies. The true coming of age unfolds when the maiden seeks out the witch who ultimately empowers her. Who teaches her to be fierce and not suffer fools.  

As we mature, we are gifted with the superpower of seeing through the false scripts that consumer society hands us. We can see just how absurd it is to kill ourselves to emulate airbrushed fashion models. We understand that the greatest lover in the world can’t fulfill us until we are at peace with ourselves. And so we can let ourselves go, whatever our age. Paint the pictures we’ve always longed to paint. Learn French and travel the world. Dance under the stars and see visions. Offer our own song to the vast symphony of life.

We need stories that honor the entire sweep of womanhood, not just Act One. What would our literary canon and popular culture look like if it truly reflected the depths and breadth of our authentic, lived experience as women and girls today?

This essay was originally published in Literary Hub.

Mary Sharratt is on a mission to write women back into history. Her acclaimed novel Illuminations, drawn from the dramatic life of Hildegard von Bingen, is published by Mariner. Her new novel Revelationsabout the mystical pilgrim Margery Kempe and her friendship with Julian of Norwich, is now available and will be released in paperback in April. Visit her website.

Sisters of the Joyous Mysteries: an interview with author Isabella Ides by Elizabeth Cunningham

Elizabeth Cunningham

Isabella Ides

Isabella Ides’ White Monkey Chronicles is my lectio divina, the wisdom, humor, and wonder of her story savored daily. (For an overview, see BJ Austin’s review.) Although the titular white monkey is at the heart of the chronicles, and his charge, foundling/avatar Conrad Eppler, is a boy, I have never encountered a more vivid evocation of goddess—multi-dimensional, earthy, transcendent, fierce, compassionate. No one knows Godma better than the Sisters of the Joyous Mysteries, an order of rogue nuns, the focus of this interview with the author.

Give us a thumbnail sketch of the three remaining members of the order, Sister Mary Subordinary, Sister Merry Berry, and Mother Mary Extraordinary. 

Mother Mary Extraordinary is ancient, icy white, her soul as scuffed as an old shoe. Extraordinary’s veil hides long white hair that reaches to her ankles.  Sister Merry Berry is youthful, dark as an espresso truffle, her hair a disarray of dreadlocks.  She ditches her veil, crochets a Rastafarian beret, and adopts a pair of florescent orange running shoes. Nun on the run. The orderly Sister Mary Subordinary is almost without physical detail. She is selfless, a giver, a maker of bread and soup. She is porous. Sometimes her soul escapes her. Mary Subordinary has visitations; the monkey god, for one, slips in.  Subordinary herself can enter other minds, although she tries not to snoop.

Have you encountered rogue nuns in your own life? 

Author with Sr. Mary Agnus, Blessed Sacrament School

I spent my first-communion year at a Catholic school in Hollywood, on Sunset Boulevard. One day on the playground, Sister Mary Agnus asked if I wanted to see the bones of a saint. Yes, I did! She reached into her deep pocket and fetched out a small gold case with red velvet lining and a glass portal.   Forget Mary Poppins. I was enthralled. Yet in my secret life, I did not believe in her god.  I was a seven-year-old redactor, appalled by the vision of an ocean of children drowning as the ark of animals sails on.

Then years of public school in the suburbs drained the world of mystery.  I jumped at the chance to enroll in an all-girls Catholic high school. My notions about nuns changed irrevocably the day I wore a faux zebra coat over my school uniform.  Sister Mary Malua asked to try it on. Her Sister friends giggled like girls.  And with a shock, I was made aware that they were girls. Like me. These young Sisters, fresh off the boat.  Irish – they spoke Gaelic when ruffled — upper-class girls, smart, some of them brilliant, but not very pretty, and not necessarily traditionally gendered.

And none of them as rogue as my creations. Indignant on their behalf, I stepped into the role of fairy Godmother to the Sister Cinderellas — working for no pay, made to obey their priest confessors, denied agency, denied priesthood, doomed to be brides of an indifferent god.  Waving my writer’s wand, I de-colonized their minds, redressed them, and sent them invitations to a spiritual ball, the likes of which they had never known.

Toni Morrison said that she wrote the novels she wanted to read. I wrote the world I wanted for my beloveds.

Their mysterious foundling, Conrad Eppler, is home-schooled by the sisters who have widely and wildly varied approaches to his education. Give us a brief description of their curricula.

Author costumed as Shakespeare’s Helena with Sr. Mary Joseph, Louisville High School

Paraphrasing Marx, from each according to her gifts. Sister Subordinary, mindful of Conrad’s origins, reads to him from the Ramayana, stories of the monkey god, Lord Hanuman, and the story of Guha, her idea of a perfect devotee. Guha’s practice is to faithfully kick the statue of Shiva that the Brahman priests have brought to his forest.  She passes to Conrad the spiritual gifts of discernment and doubt.

Merry Berry gives Conrad the childhood that she never had. This is one of the fascinations of motherhood and mentorhood,  how the child/student changes the teacher. Motherhood is actually one of the deep themes of the Chronicles, that and redemption. How we transform and are transformed by what we create, what we give birth to in the world.

Mothering a child, a planet, a poem, a prayer, a god.

Mother Mary Extraordinary teaches Conrad astral travel. She is a visionary, come to grief over dead and dying dreams. She is cranky, reluctant to crank up further investments in the material world that betrayed her. Her most potent gift comes late in the novel. She is the difficult parent. The dark side of the moon.

The sisters have a highly original approach to prayer, which lands them in mortal trouble with the Great Church. Tell us a little about the flowering of the heretical practices. 

The Great Church cast out its rebel brides for ordaining sister priests.  Unbound, all holy mayhem broke loose at the convent.  New sacraments were invented, Sisters married each other, created scrumptious communion breads, and each sister wrote a personal mass, worshiping the gods as she imagined them. Then disaster. The prayer eaters came and licked the pages of the prayer books clean.  When a Sister’s prayer book went blank, death soon followed. And then there were three.  Mary Extraordinary.  Mary Subordinary. Merry Berry.

When the sky-blue baby deity is delivered to the convent, the three survivors crack open one of the old prayer books to enter his name in the litany of infants.  Theirs is a radical hospitality.  All gods are welcome. Well. Almost. This hospitality doesn’t quite extend to those gods who deny that they have mothers, or that claim one-and-only status, or label their progeny the only begotten.  In the Sisters’ theology every child is a coming, and a godsend.

We’ll close with an excerpt from one of the sisters’ prayers:

Litany of the Infants

The infants come

on fresh beds of hay
on sterile hospital sheets
down dark Calcutta streets
on the back seats of taxi-cabs
on the beds of Mack trucks

they come

in woodshed and chateau
in barn and bordello
on the snow belt
and bible belt
on the green veldt
and parched plains of Africa

they huddle

in refugee camps
in quarantined villages

they set sail in Moses-baskets

afloat on the Nile

from Bodrum
from the shores of Vietnam
from the banks of the Rio Grande

let them come

with halo hair
and soft eyes shining

Divine Mother, Sweet Protectoress

shelter each foundling
in the house of your infinite kindness
in the womb of your joyous mystery

Holy of Holies, Mary Mother of God

teach us thy trade.


Isabella Ides was born under the Hollywood sign and attended a Catholic School on Sunset Boulevard. Her father ran search lights for movie openings.  Thus she was bent towards stage lights and spirit lights from the get go. A poet and playwright, she considers her debut novel, White Monkey Chronicles, the mother lode.  Everything leads to it.  And away.

Elizabeth Cunningham is best known as the author of The Maeve Chronicles, a series of award winning novels featuring a feisty Celtic Magdalen. Her novels The Wild Mother and The Return of the Goddess have both been released in 25th anniversary editions. She is also the author of Murder at the Rummage Sale. The sequel, All the Perils of this Night, will be published in 2020. Tell Me the Story Again, her fourth collection of poems, is now in print. An interfaith minister, Cunningham is in private practice as a counselor. She is also a fellow emeritus of Black Earth Institute.

Sappho’s Poems as an Ethos for Women’s Ritual by Jill Hammer

Photo by: Zac Jaffe

For by my side you put on

many wreaths of roses

and garlands of flowers

around your soft neck


and with precious and royal perfume

you anointed yourself.


On soft beds you satisfied your passion.


And there was no dance

no holy place

from which we were absent.


–Sappho (trans. Julia Dubnoff)


Sappho, the poet from Lesbos (630-570 BCE), was considered one of the greatest poets of her time—one of her epithets was “the tenth Muse.” I discovered the poems of Sappho in my thirties and was utterly captivated.  I had newly embarked on a relationship with a woman and Sappho’s love poetry (though by no means exclusively lesbian) supported the expression of eros between women.  Yet even more than that, Sappho’s poems supported an erotic relationship between self and world—a relationship that included ritual as a form of intimacy.  I’m not a Greek scholar—I experience Sappho’s poems in translation. Yet the translations I read back then were a revelation: a world in which women lived in circle with one another.

Continue reading “Sappho’s Poems as an Ethos for Women’s Ritual by Jill Hammer”

Ancient Dreamer by Elizabeth Cunningham

Raised view fallen autumn leaves deciduous trees

The poems below are excerpted from my new (I hope forthcoming) collection, Tell Me the Story Again. Ancient dreamer’s voice is one among many voices including sorrow singer, temple sweeper, sword woman, morose fool, merry drunk, grey cat and mouse, stone mountain, skeleton woman, mother rain and many more. The voices speak from a time perhaps just after (or long before) our time, in a real and magical world.

I chose to excerpt ancient dreamer’s poems because winter is the time, in Celtic lore, of the Cailleach, the old one, the divine hag.  When I began writing the poems in 2014, my mother-in-law, then age 101, was in the last stages of her life. She slept and dreamed most of the time, and I would sit and daydream with her. She died two months before her 102nd birthday. When I took up the collection again in 2018 to complete it, ancient dreamer remained a strong presence and has the last word.  

Continue reading “Ancient Dreamer by Elizabeth Cunningham”

A Review of Decembers Past before We Move into the New Year by Marie Cartier

Last month I looked back over six years of postings I have done for FAR. In November,  I noticed that I usually during that month tend to review the year and find something to be grateful for.

I decided this month to follow that up by looking back at the posts I have done for the past six years at this time of year, right before the wheel turns into the New Year. I have the privilege of writing for FAR usually right after Thanksgiving and right after Christmas and before New Year’s. I tend to think of this time as a time of looking forward, and Thanksgiving as a time of looking back.

Continue reading “A Review of Decembers Past before We Move into the New Year by Marie Cartier”

Did You Have to Make Her a Prostitute? by Elizabeth Cunningham

When I toured with The Passion of Mary Magdalen, opening by belting out the first paragraphs of the novel’s prologue in song, (ending with the line “when only a whore is awake!”) that question almost always came up.  In celebration of Mary Magdalen’s feast day, I’d like to offer answers that continue to evolve.

There is no scriptural evidence that Mary Magdalen was a prostitute. In a sermon, 6th century Pope Gregory I gave as his opinion: “This woman, whom Luke calls a sinner and John calls Mary, I think is the Mary from whom Mark reports that seven demons were cast out.” (This confusion and proliferation of Marys inspired me to make a joke. Q: How many holy Marys does it take to change a lightbulb? A: I don’t know. I keep losing count.)

In fact, very little is known about Mary Magdalen. There are fourteen references to her in the Gospels, then she disappears from the New Testament. The possibly Gnostic gospel of Mary dates to the 2nd century CE, and there is no scholarly consensus as to which Mary is the source of the tradition. Early on Mary Magdalen gave history the slip and took on an extended life in legends, which take her to Ephesus as well as to France where her alleged fingernails, bones, and skull reside and continue to be venerated.

Continue reading “Did You Have to Make Her a Prostitute? by Elizabeth Cunningham”

Knowing my Voice through Writing by Elise M. Edwards

elise-edwardsOver the summer, I’ve been writing more than I do during the traditional academic year when other tasks consume the bulk of my workday.  I have spent more time experiencing the joy of creative discovery and production, but I’ve also had more time confronting the difficulties of creative work as I’ve wrestled with some of its unique challenges.  One of those challenges has been to refine my academic writing voice. I’ve approaches the challenge of developing my voice as both a spiritual and feminist practice and this has helped me find confidence in my work.

Continue reading “Knowing my Voice through Writing by Elise M. Edwards”

Thus Saith Eve BOOK REVIEW by Katie M. Deaver

“I am the Queen of Sheba and I am not impressed.”  This is the first line of one of the monologues from chris wind’s book Thus Saith Eve.  This book features 18 stories of biblical women, and a 19th, Lilith, from Jewish mythology.  Each monologue offers a new interpretation and gives a voice to the women that we think we know.

In this book the voices and personalities of women such as Noah’s wife, Mary of Bethany, Zipporah, and Vashti are reimagined in an exciting and empowering way.  Each of the stories also features an appendix where the reader can learn more about the biblical or mythological context of the woman who is telling her story.

As in her other works, wind uses historical people, events, and understandings to build a truly wonderful source of feminist fiction.  In addition to being an extremely enjoyable and thought provoking read, the monologues can also be used for audition and performance pieces.  On her website wind explains that two of the monologues, “I am Eve” and “I am Mary” can be performed with specific musical selections in the background.  You can find those selections linked to her website above.


Continue reading “Thus Saith Eve BOOK REVIEW by Katie M. Deaver”

“The Burning Lava of a Song” by Joyce Zonana

Aurora’s autobiographical narrative is a passionate paean to poets as the “only truth-tellers, now left to God”; she celebrates them as agents for personal and social transformation. As we come to the end of this National Poetry Month in the U.S., where truth is under siege, it’s worth recalling Aurora Leigh and its daring exploration of poetry, gender, divinity, and social justice.

jz-headshotI was in graduate school when I first read Aurora Leigh, Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s fiery 1856 epic about a young woman claiming her vocation as a poet despite Victorian society’s patriarchal strictures. The poem was not on any assigned reading-list; I’d simply stumbled across it while doing research for my dissertation. The opening lines brazenly assert the speaker’s authority and ambition:

OF writing many books there is no end;
And I who have written much in prose and verse
For others’ uses, will write now for mine,–
Will write my story for my better self . . .

Encountering those words, I was immediately possessed by Aurora’s voice and vision, a welcome change from all the male poets and critics I’d been reading. I devoured the verse novel’s nine books in one night. The poem became the centerpiece of my dissertation, and I studied and enthusiastically taught it for years.

Continue reading ““The Burning Lava of a Song” by Joyce Zonana”

Toil and Trouble (Part 1) by Barbara Ardinger

…and Ella can’t remember the last real meal she had. After supper with the refugees in the witch’s house, she and the witch put their heads together to begin making significant plans. She’s also been meeting all the refugees who now live on the witch’s farm. She knows first-hand why these people fled the capital and the other cities. “Oh, lordy, yes,” she says. “I used to know all the important people. My dear sisters and I went to all the big events, ate the finest cuisine—” suddenly remembering where she is, she looks down at the table “—oh, dear, but I don’t mean to criticize your cuisine.”

The ravens, all perched on the backs of chairs look straight at her. “Good food, this,” says Kahlil, “except these girls don’t serve eyeballs.” “Stop that,” Domina whispers (if ravens can be said to whisper). “Don’t be so picky. Everybody here gets enough to eat.”

Ella, who is more used to cats and dogs and the occasional parakeet than to ravens, blinks and continues. “I wish I knew where my sisters are now. Thanks to our ‘relationships’ with the princes, we were High Society and—”

Continue reading “Toil and Trouble (Part 1) by Barbara Ardinger”

A Rescue Remedy, Part 2 by Barbara Ardinger

The handsome but uncharming prince having been magicked, the witch and her coconspirators know it’s time to focus on finding Ella. The witch looks around the table.

“Mrs. Janedoe and Mrs. Worthington,” she says, “you are two of our most highly experienced sauceresses…I mean sorceresses. Mrs. Bezukhov, you are also a woman of great, if temporarily diminished, power. Let us work together and see what we can do. Surely when people of good will work together they can raise energy that leads to positive results. Yes?” She looks around. “Please come up to my study.” The ravens of course know they are members of this ad hoc coven, and Mrs. Bezukhov goes out to her little room (actually a stall) in the barn to fetch her old scrying stone.

“Now,” says the witch, “we need to find out where Ella is and—”

“Before that,” says Kahlil, the prophetic raven, “we gotta fly that…er…sausage to the city ’n’ drop it on that lousy prince and hit ’im where it’ll do the most good. Make sure he got the message, doncha know. I got a new buddy who’ll fly with us.” He waves a wing at the window and another raven flies in. “This’s Icarus.” The new raven bows. “Despite his name, he’s a good flyer ’n’ he knows the safest routes to the capital and the bestest ways to get around the city.” Kahlil shows the bagged sausage to Icarus, who studies it and shakes his head like he’s just been attacked by a million fleas. “Okay,” says Kahlil, “youse girls just keep an eye on us in that there scrying stone.” He starts to rise from the table, but Mrs. Worthington stops him.

Continue reading “A Rescue Remedy, Part 2 by Barbara Ardinger”

A Rescue Remedy, Part I by Barbara Ardinger

A year, now. It has been a full year since the phony election that put El Presidente in the Golden Office. A year since people began leaving the capital and the nation’s other large cities. While some of the refugees emigrated to quasi-democratic nations, most of them settled in the small towns and on the farms across the countryside, where they began building new, rural lives. A year ago, it was a flood of refugees. Now fewer people are able to escape.

A year, now, and even though she has studied and practiced, the wicked witch is no wickeder than she ever was. Nowadays she even forgets to put on the wicked-witch mask that she used to think scared people. But it’s easy for everyone to see that, masked or not, she’s just an ordinary woman practicing an old-time religion. She’s never fooled anyone, not the sixty or so refugees who now live on her farm, especially not the various ravens who drop by regularly for snacks in exchange for gossip.

Continue reading “A Rescue Remedy, Part I by Barbara Ardinger”

Dandelion Warriors, Incest Survival and An Artist Statement on That Christmas Morning Feeling by Marie Cartier

MarieCartierforKCETa-thumb-300x448-72405I have blogged excerpts from my novel That Christmas Morning Feeling in progress previously—the first excerpt here and additional ones here and here. This blog serves as an “artist statement” regarding the novel in progress.

I want to discuss in this blog thoughts on my own creative process—how a project can percolate for years (this one for well over ten years) and be in pieces in several places (handwritten, hard drives, on a laptop, here in FAR) and then some magical “tipping point” comes that creates the necessary conditions to put other things aside and work on that project, birthing it forward.

Certainly the death of both my parents in one year, and the resulting fallout in the last two years, complicated relationship struggles both to be sure, prompted me to want to write this novel and put it out into the world in a finished form, which is what I’m trying to accomplish now.

This book is not an autobiography…it’s not “my story.” But, to be sure, I am a survivor of childhood sexual abuse and the feelings and experiences from that time have been published in autobiographical form in my poetry book, I Am Your Daughter, Not Your Lover,  a play (of the same title, while much of this dramatic work is out of print, my work is catalogued at UCLA; here is the finding aid) based on the book produced in Los Angeles, and a one woman show I did entitled Blessed Virgin. I also created the activism project, Dandelion Warrior, which awarded medals to survivors who came to my numerous readings in the nineties who were willing to give up the option of suicide. To date I awarded well over a thousand buttons/medals to survivors in the States and internationally. When the buttons ran out I simply shook hands with the survivors who were willing to stand shoulder to shoulder with me and make the commitment to stay on the planet.  


I was the first artist the state of California awarded an Artist in Residence grant to, to work specifically with incest survivors, and I worked also with women from forced marriages, and also prostitutes, creating dialogues with them and with survivors of childhood sexual abuse and created projects that showcased their voices coming together in the struggle for survival. I performed slam poetry about incest survival when it was just called reading poetry in bars; I did one woman shows and got flack in my reviews, as well as praise. For instance, one reviewer simply said “Speak Repressed Memory,” as he went on to say he didn’t believe survivors’ stories coming forward and did not at all review my play or performance except to say I was an “accomplished actress.” The rest of his review was about how he hated incest survival stories, and therefore the reader was to assume also my play.

I continued with my work. Continue reading “Dandelion Warriors, Incest Survival and An Artist Statement on That Christmas Morning Feeling by Marie Cartier”

Is There a Such Thing as a Code of Ethics in Academia?  by Michele Stopera Freyhauf

One of things that has dismayed me since I began graduate school and started focusing my study on the Bible, is how much sensationalism exists. We are told in the academy not to use Wikipedia or watch the History Channel. The first, as we know, is unreliable due to the fact that anyone can enter information and make changes. The other caters to the general public. What compounds this problem is the fact that scholars, many times – even reputable ones – appear on these shows. Sometimes creative licenses are exercised by the producer distorting or otherwise shifting the message of what the scholar was trying to explain. Other times, scholars will just give the producers and the public exactly what they want to hear and thus perpetuating myths rooted in literalism.

Cave in the Church of the Apocalypse in Patmos, Greece

This is not the only time this issues manifests.  The other time I encountered this is when I travel to sacred or holy sites in the Middle East.  The people in charge of sites may want raise money and increase tourism – so they give the people what they want.  What do I mean by this?  Walking into a place that has a story whether true or not provides pilgrims a sense of awe and wonder.

Certainly I am not saying that this experience should be diminished or should be taken away. What I am saying is that we should be a bit more truthful in our descriptions and remove the shroud of literalism that seems to fuel tourism and not faith. What was difficult for me when visiting Patmos is the rhetoric surrounding the island. It may or may not have been where John had his visions, but certainly the mystique surrounding the Church of the Apocalypse seems to perpetuate the literalism that surrounds the Book of Revelation as being prophetic in dealing with the end times.  Moreover, the vendors around the Church certainly focus their merchandise to support this myth.  However, while I study the Book of Revelation and teach that it is something other than prophetic, a person visits the island and the church, are told that it is prophetic – who is a person to believe?   Me or the religious order running the Church or the vendors living on the island?

This also happens at dig sites.  If a tourist is led by a guide or lead at a holy site being excavated and they tell them what they want to hear so they come back and tell their friends, who has more creditability – me or the person who guides on the site?  When scholars like myself, write about a topic that seems to gel with what the commonly held view of the academy, and goes against literalism or fundamentalist beliefs, we become heretics in relation to the information being fed by the sensationalism on the History Channel and the tourist industry.  So the popular view does not change and the academic view is left on the margins and Biblical literalism wins.

Continue reading “Is There a Such Thing as a Code of Ethics in Academia?  by Michele Stopera Freyhauf”

My Fanime Exploration of Fan Fiction—Questions of Consent and Erotic Expression

Sara FrykenbergEvery year, my husband, sister and I attend the Japanese animation convention Fanimecon in San Jose, CA. We cosplay, watch anime and peruse the various panels designed for fan entertainment and education. This year I was even lucky enough to be interviewed for the student film Unconventional, about cosplay culture, which you can check out following the link above!

Since I can’t (and don’t want to) leave my feminist lens at home, I often seek out the panels that address issues of representation, gender, diversity and sexuality when attending this conference; and usually, the con does not disappoint. Here are some examples of the panels hosted at Fanimecon in the past three years: Continue reading “My Fanime Exploration of Fan Fiction—Questions of Consent and Erotic Expression”

%d bloggers like this: