“Don’t Let the Store Shop You” by Natalie Weaver

My mother, in the great tradition of all mothers, says things sometimes that:  1) crack me up; 2) speak some depth of human truth; and 3) plainly and pithily state facts that could never be otherwise articulated, even if the task were undertaken by the whole complement of talents of Shakespeare, Goethe, Dostoevsky, and J.K. Rowling combined.  I occasionally feel that I have failed as a mother myself because I do not have a mom-ist voice. If I have one, it surely isn’t pithy. I often find myself spending four hours in a graduate seminar, lecturing on some aspect of Christology and ministry or the like, only to summarize the whole thing with a “momism” that better said what I was getting at all along.

Today, in conversation, I came back around to one of my mom’s oldest and best bespeakings of truth-to-power. Some years back, we were talking about a sale at Macy’s, observing that the base prices on things seemed to go up and down in relationship to sale percentages, such that one always pays about the same, whether the item is “on sale” or just “for sale.”  Even the language of “on sale” seemed ridiculous, we mused, since everything in the store was being sold.  If the sale is “on,” I guessed that means it is “on,” like a string of pulsing Christmas lights or a kettle of boiling water or a revving engine, as opposed to a static, dusty package of picture hangers forgotten in the bottom rack of a narrow row in the bowels of a hardware store (unless, of course, the picture hangers were, well, on sale).  Continue reading ““Don’t Let the Store Shop You” by Natalie Weaver”

Hooray! The Holiday Season Is At Hand! by Barbara Ardinger

December seems to have more holidays than the rest of the year put together. Days to honor Ix Chel, the Virgin of Guadalupe, St. Lucy (aka Santa Lucia), the Declaration of Human Rights, and the publication of the Rider-Waite Tarot. Saturnalia. Hanukkah. Christmas. Kwanza. Yule. Innumerable reasons to go shopping for gifts and banquets. Here, to help you survive the holiday season, are two Found Goddesses.

Who, you may ask, is a Found Goddess? The term comes from Found Goddesses, published in 1988 by Morgan Grey and Julia Penelope. Found Goddesses are modern ones that we invent to deal with modern issues that the classical pantheons can probably not cope with. Like going to the mall and cleaning our houses before our guests arrive. (Note that I’ve rewritten these pieces a bit to bring them more or less up to date.)

Continue reading “Hooray! The Holiday Season Is At Hand! by Barbara Ardinger”

Small Business Saturday: Feminist Gift Guide for the Holidays by Angela Yarber

Wondering what to give the revolutionaries in your life for the holidays? Want to support feminist small businesses as you shop? Need some creative ideas with powerful feminist history and theory embedded in each purchase? Would it help if the gifts fused together feminism and religion? The Holy Women Icons ProjectLagusta Luscious,  and Bloodroot Feminist Vegetarian Restaurant has plenty of ways for you to celebrate the holidays with empowering gifts to please feminist in your life.

The feminist non-profit Holy Women Icons Project seeks to empower marginalized women by telling the stories of revolutionary holy women through art, writing, and special events. For over five years, a different holy woman has been featured each month on Feminism and Religion; we became an official non-profit earlier this year; and we have some beautiful, creative, and empowering offerings suitable for the holidays.

Continue reading “Small Business Saturday: Feminist Gift Guide for the Holidays by Angela Yarber”

Empowering Toys and the Problem of Class Divisions by Katie M. Deaver

I recently noticed that I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about financial security, the way class systems work in the United States context, and how these types of realities inform my feminism.  Part of this is no doubt due to the fact that for the first time in my life I am not a student with multiple part time jobs, but rather am a “real” adult working full time at a job that offers retirement and medical benefits.

As I’ve written about before, I grew up in a poor family in rural Wisconsin and as a result I am often hyper vigilant about my finances.  While I likely go a bit overboard when organizing my budgeting, balancing, saving, and spending this type of organizing is something I can control.  The simple act of paying a bill, or determining how much I can spend on groceries this week gives me a profound sense of safety because for the first time there really is enough coming in to support my basic needs.

Continue reading “Empowering Toys and the Problem of Class Divisions by Katie M. Deaver”

Bikini Season by Sarah Kiefer

I grew up in a suburban town stuck in the middle of rural Indiana. I drove through corn fields to get to school and on more than one occasion I did have to crawl through my sun roof to get into my car because I was sandwiched between two monster trucks. My grandfather, an avid bird watcher, waged a personal war against the chipmunks and within one summer caught and drowned anywhere between fifteen and twenty of them until my mom pointed out that he was probably attracting them by putting bird seed on the ground.

I was raised in the non-denominational Christian church and part of my weekly activities was attending youth group. For those of you not familiar with youth group, it’s usually held on Wednesday night for the youth in the church. It’s basically church geared towards pre-teens and teenagers. Some of my fondest memories of my teen years are from youth group. You foster deep friendships in a fun environment and have good role models all the while learning about the Bible in a way that is more easily understood by a young person.

When I was about thirteen I went to a conference with the rest of the girls in youth group. It was a “modesty conference” geared at teaching young women the “biblical” truth of their role as a female and how that translates into how one dresses. We were taught that we are responsible for the relationship between our brothers in Christ and Jesus. One of the ways that we can make them fall is wearing too revealing clothes. If we wore something too tight, too low, or too short, the men wouldn’t be able to control themselves and would sin in the eyes of Jesus. We were encouraged to wear loose t-shirts and shorts that went to the knee in order to keep our brothers from sinning.

The last night was the long awaited fashion show of the conference and we had all stayed up the night before eagerly finishing the dresses we would be modeling the next day. At the end of the fashion show the lead pastor’s wife came out wearing a bikini. We were all cheering her on because she looked great. She stood at the end of the runway shaking and grabbed the microphone. As she spoke, the mood of the room dramatically shifted. She said she would never wear a bikini in public because her body is for her husband alone and other men looking at her would cause them to sin. The sadness and guilt her voice conveyed sobered all of us. We all vowed we would never wear a bikini again and from here on out it was modest, one piece bathing suits for us.

Looking back at this experience, I recognize quite a few issues I want to address. First, teaching young Christian girls that we are not only responsible for our own relationship with Christ, but also the relationship of all men feels wrong to my spirit and isn’t even biblical. Second, teaching us to be ashamed of our body’s natural shape and covering it in baggy clothing so men won’t sin when they look at us is detrimental to both men and women. The detriment to a young girl’s self-esteem because she has strict guidelines reinforced with guilt around dressing herself leads her to thinking there is something “wrong” or “bad” about her body. This also perpetuates the lack of accountability for men, as they grow up thinking they can’t control their sexual being so they don’t even try, placing the responsibility on women. Why do you think the question “well what was she wearing?” asked in the case of a woman’s rape comes up so often? (This thinking comes from the common misconception that rape is an act of uncontrollable sexual urges, not a man exercising an intentional act of power.) These innocent teachings have further reaching effects on society than we think.

Lastly, I want to address what the pastor’s wife shared with the group, particularly her comment on her body being her husband’s. True, our bodies are not our own, they are a gift from God. 1 Corinthians 6: 19 says “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.” All God asks in return is that we treat our body respectfully. I don’t know about you, but I see nothing in that verse about a woman’s body being owned by a man. A woman’s body is not to be owned by a significant other no matter what their marital status is, just like a man’s body is not to be owned by a significant other. Language of possession and ownership in romantic relationships needs to be struck from the dialogue of Christianity and replaced with the language of respect.

Since I’m not the gatekeeper of heaven and hell I can’t say for sure, but I’m relatively certain if you wore a bikini you won’t be sending three men plus yourself into eternal damnation. With bikini season around the corner, take some time to reflect on the way you view your body. Do you treat it with respect? Do you own it? Do you love your body? Or have you given away that privilege to someone else? I say as a Christian woman, we unburden ourselves of the responsibility for our brother’s sin. We have enough to do. Like bikini shopping.


Sarah is graduating with her undergraduate degree as a psychology major with a pre-law concentration and minor in women’s studies in 2017. She has accepted a full ride scholarship to law school and is expecting to pursue prosecutorial work. Outside of the classroom, she serves as a Resident Assistant, plays on the championship lacrosse team, and also serves as president of Women’s Circle—the feminist student group that she helped to establish and for which she continues to lead discussion and events.

Low Impact Giving as a Holiday Gift to Mother Earth by Elisabeth Schilling

BeachAs the winter months approach, at least one “Christmas” gathering will be on my schedule. As this holiday has been co-opted by consumerism as evidenced by my memory of the throngs of sales and shoppers in large shopping centers to get “the perfect gift,” I wonder how to give the perfect gift to Mother Earth simultaneously. At the December meeting of my local chapter of the Sierra Club, one of the members passed out a list of gift ideas for a “low-impact” season. Some of the items on the list include or have inspired the following:

Gift Coupons for Services – cleaning out a garage, taking care of someone’s kids for the day, a home-cooked meal for a family, showing someone how to set up composting, teaching someone to knit.

Memberships/Lessons – Yoga classes from a studio, membership to a museum or a gym, art lessons, music lessons.

Gift Basket of Sustainability-Minded Products for Cleaning/Bath  

Donations in Honor of Someone

I am sure many of us are already creative in our gift giving. So hopefully you will all comment and share your low-impact gift traditions. For those of us who haven’t quite transitioned or have never fully thought of pursuing this course of action, there can be some resistance encountered in those who receive low-impact gifts. Continue reading “Low Impact Giving as a Holiday Gift to Mother Earth by Elisabeth Schilling”

The Wedding Dress by Natalie Weaver

Natalie Weaver editedA few weeks back, I was digging around for a picture, and in the process of looking for one picture I uncovered decades worth of memories. Here I was by the pool one Thanksgiving at my old apartment in California. That was where I cooked my first turkey. Here, in another photo, it was Christmas Eve at my mom’s house. I was with my best friend, wearing matching Santa hats. She was so beautiful as a girl. I have become accustomed to her as a woman and had forgotten how much I loved and admired her then as well. Weren’t we supposed to take off and travel the world together? And, then, here were the wedding photos of our Christmas wedding.

I noticed that it was an intimate party. At one point in the service, my father-in-law was holding my flowers since my sister was fixing my veil. He was chided the rest of the night for being my flower girl. I remembered that I did not have my hair professionally coiffed when I saw the backstage image of myself taking out bobby-pinned curls in lingerie before I dressed. Did I look like that? Who took that picture? The flowers were white roses, accented with holly berries and leaves, and my bouquet was a solid bundle of red roses.   Oh yes, and, here was our friend from Chicago… with his hair dyed blond? Why was he hanging out with my girlfriends in my room the night before I was married? And, didn’t my mom inadvertently catch his shirt on fire with some incense? Yes, that’s right. Very innocently, smilingly, moving casually, she patted out the near tragedy sparking on his back side, saying in her best southern accent, “Oh, my! We put a little hole in you, didn’t we?” A little disgruntled, he muttered, “That was a new shirt.”

The one great indulgence of the wedding was the dress itself. It was ivory with blush colored roses embroidered on the tulle overlay of the big skirt. I was not concerned that people would think me a non-virgin in ivory, but it was mentioned to me as a consideration. I loved the bustle in the back that was gathered from the generous material of the gown’s train so that I could walk and dance at the reception. The friendly ladies who sold me the dress came to the wedding specifically to make sure the bustle was perfectly drawn. The bodice had a gentle piping, which made the top sort of stand on its own. The same ladies also insisted that I have some extra padding in the top. Come to think of it, they seemed to have been globally concerned with the success of the garment and me in it. I wore a white silk wrap around my shoulders, which made me feel like Grace Kelly. The covering was my favorite part, which I added at the last minute. The photos prompted me to get out the dress once again, for I had not looked at it in the nearly fifteen years since I had it hermetically preserved following the wedding. So far, it had not yellowed. I was surprised to see how funerary it looked through the peep window, sealed up as it was in a box around cardboard shaped like my torso. It made me think that perhaps I should be buried in it some day. This thought has discomfited me with a complexity of sacramentality, morbidity, practicality, humor, despair, love and sorrow that I have yet to comprehend or shirk. Continue reading “The Wedding Dress by Natalie Weaver”

Let’s Celebrate the Holiday Shopping Season by Barbara Ardinger

We’ve recently celebrated Thanksgiving, when I hope that, like me, you gave thanks to the deity of your choice for the wise and thoughty blogs we’ve been reading on this site. Now we’re well into the holiday season, which seems (at least in the malls) to start earlier every year. No matter what you call the December holiday, its origin lies in the winter solstice, which is the tipping point of the year’s dark season. The solar gods—Adonis, Amon-Ra, Apollo, Attis, Baal, Horus, Jesus the Christ, Lugh, Marduk, Mithra, Shamash, Sol Invictus, and the rest—are born or reborn now. These are the gods who live for a season or a year in great honor, after which they’re sacrificed, spend a season underground, and are then reborn. This happens every year at the winter solstice. (Just so you know: if Jesus was a real man, he was probably born in the spring or fall between 7 and 4 B.C.E. In 354 C.E., Bishop Liberius of Rome moved his official birth date to December 25 to match the birth date of the popular Roman god Mithra.)

Also born and reborn at the winter solstice is the light itself, the solar light and the temple light, too. We can think of the reborn light as literal light—a lamp in a temple that burns for eight days when it has fuel for only one—or metaphorical light, that is, learning, wisdom, and generosity. Hanukkah (which usually comes in December but which coincided with Thanksgiving this year) embraces both literal and metaphorical light. Continue reading “Let’s Celebrate the Holiday Shopping Season by Barbara Ardinger”

What I’m Wearing to the Pool and What it Means, by Sara Frykenberg

Sara FrykenbergRecently a FAR colleague sent us writers an article entitled, “Toward a New Understanding of Modesty,” and asked if any of us would like to comment on it.  I dove at the chance, pun intended.  Not only did the article address the politics of swimwear (a kind of clothing I spent nearly a third of my life wearing everyday, swimming competitively for eight years), it also discussed the swimsuit designs of Jessica Rey – a former Power Ranger, the white-suited one to be specific.

The article’s author, Katelyn Beaty, explains that Rey believes, “that the now-ubiquitous bikini hurts women” because it encourages men to see women as objects to be used.  Beaty states, “Rey has a mission: to get as many women as possible in one-piece swimsuits.”  This mission immediately perked my attention.  As a Power Ranger, Alyssa  (Rey) is all too familiar with the utility of a shining, stretchy body suit.  Armored head to toe in white, pink and gold lycra and spandex, sporting a skirt over her leggings,[1] Alyssa defeats many monsters in the Power Ranger universe.

Sourced from: http://www.1up.com/do/blogEntry?bId=8982878

But fantasy aside, the utilitarian nature of swimwear is often overlooked in deference to “sexiness” and fashion.  Bikinis are featured in most fashion magazines as the standard for bathing beauty, as is the ‘ability’ (or supposed ‘right kind of body’) to wear a bikini, aka the elusive “bikini body.”

Continue reading “What I’m Wearing to the Pool and What it Means, by Sara Frykenberg”

Appealing to Values and Interests in Consumer Choices by Grace Yia-Hei Kao

“What the report also makes clear is that sweatshop labor is highly gendered. Between 71-85%…are women, the majority of whom are also under the age of 35.”

I was recently drawn into a facebook discussion about the ethics and efficacy of refusing to eat at Chick-Fil-A on account of its president’s public “we are inviting God’s judgment on our nation” opposition to same-sex marriage as well as the chain’s financial support of socially conservative groups.

I noted that consumers who boycott businesses generally do so because they believe that (1) continuing to patronize a place would be at odds with their core values, or that (2) their actions will “make a difference” by exerting financial pressure on the company to amend their ways. These two reasons could be related, though they often are not. People can act in accordance with their conscience without believing that they have accordingly instigated social change (n.b., just think of the earlier 2004 decision by the Presbyterian Church U.S.A. to selectively divest from certain companies in Israel), just as companies can be compelled to alter their policies by other means than by their clientele taking their business elsewhere.

Continue reading “Appealing to Values and Interests in Consumer Choices by Grace Yia-Hei Kao”

What I Learned (and Found) Dumpster Diving, Part II, by Grace Yia-Hei Kao

“I had known that dumpster diving is subversive….What I hadn’t considered previously is its arguable feminist and biblical precedents.”


The following is a continuation of a two-part blog. Read part I for what prompted me to go dumpster diving, what freeganism is, and what three things surprised me the most about dumpstering beyond the sad and shocking reality of tremendous waste. 

My Dumpster Dive Haul

After sorting through several trash bags of edible food in the approximately 10 minutes that we spent at one site in my first ever urban scavenging trip, this is what I ultimately brought home.


(Reminder: As explained in part I, I have intentionally photoshopped out the store’s name and the use-by/best by dates).

Continue reading “What I Learned (and Found) Dumpster Diving, Part II, by Grace Yia-Hei Kao”

They Are Trying to Trick You by Xochitl Alvizo

These chocolates embody a truth — the truth that resources are valuable, that living ethically is not ‘cheap,’ and that cheap is an illusion…

Information is everywhere and is being collected about each one of us every minute of every day. If you are reading this post on your computer you have just fed the information gathering machine new information about yourself, your interests, your trends – and if you click on any of the links embedded within this post – all the more so. Welcome to the 21st Century.

In a way it sounds terribly “Big Brother-ish.” And maybe so, but I don’t think of it that way as that would be terribly overwhelming and perhaps even paralyzing. Instead, I simply see it as capitalism in full force. Capitalism depends on a consumer economy – the more we buy the more profit a small percentage of people make. And the consumption of goods is heavily reliant on marketing, which nowadays is being streamlined more and more so that it can to be targeted and personalized for each individual. In order to do this the powers that be need information about us – detailed information and lots of it! Here enter Google and Facebook – the great gatherers of all the personal information we freely give them. They gather information and share it with corporations so that these may in turn more effectively market products to us that we are more likely to buy. We are now in what is called the Google Age, the great servant of capitalism and our consumer economy.

So what does a feminist do in the face of such an overwhelming reality? I have a few suggestions of course. First, you remember that they are trying to trick you. Seriously, they are! Continue reading “They Are Trying to Trick You by Xochitl Alvizo”

Why I Thrift (and How I Got Started) by Grace Yia-Hei Kao

“Thrifting fits the ‘reduce-reuse-recycle’ mantra so well…Thrifting may not be the most efficient way to shop, but I love how it encourages me to see the value in old things…”

Continue reading “Why I Thrift (and How I Got Started) by Grace Yia-Hei Kao”

Participating in Beauty Culture

I…liked how we were neither dogmatic in our judgments (i.e., no one played the role of feminist fashion police), nor laissez-faire in thinking that ‘anything goes’—after all, feminists were the ones who had popularized the slogan the ‘personal is political.'”

At the most recent Society of Christian Ethics annual meeting, I got into an impromptu late night discussion with several women friends about why some of us participate in “beauty culture” and how we feel as feminist Christian ethicists and moral theologians about our decisions. Each of us shared why we have chosen to wear make-up (or not), keep up with fashion (or not), dye our hair grey to mask the signs of aging (or not), or put in the effort to maintain a certain physique (or not). We also addressed what role our own mothers and larger communities have played in our decision-making processes.

Since it is certainly not my place to reveal what others disclosed behind closed doors over wine, let me expand upon a few things I shared that night. Continue reading “Participating in Beauty Culture”

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