The Undoing of Patriarchy in the Life of Tom Jorde (1922-2011)

Last week I attended the funeral of the one man, who in my feminist musings, was able to image the maleness of God as father, friend and pastor.  If I had thought about it, I would have given him the T-shirt that reads, “This is What a Feminist Looks Like,” but it never occurred to me until now.

A successful sales manager, Tom decided at the age of 36, and with 6 young children, to enter full-time ministry by enrolling in Pacific Lutheran Seminary at the GTU (in Berkeley).  Imagine undertaking an MDIV degree with that kind of responsibility?  As the adage states, “It takes a village,” and it did.  Marie, Tom’s wife, took charge of the kids while his four brothers help support him until his graduation in 1965.  Continue reading “The Undoing of Patriarchy in the Life of Tom Jorde (1922-2011)”

Feminist Awakening By Peggy Ventris

This  post is written in conjunction with the Feminist Ethics Course Dialogue project sponsored by Claremont School of Theology in the Claremont Lincoln University Consortium,  Claremont Graduate University, and directed by Grace Yia-Hei Kao.

Besides being a Feminist Ethics student, Peggy is a Physical Therapy Assistant specializing in Barnes technique myofascial release; Deacon (soon to be priest) in charge under special circumstances at St. Martin-in-the-Fields Episcopal Church, Twentynine Palms; a fourth year joint M. Div. student at ETSC/CST; a multi-moved(while her husband was off flying) military wife 20 of 43  married years; privileged oldest of four daughters of medical professionals; 21-year grateful member of Al-Anon; mother and grandmother; budding feminist;  all in no particular order of importance.

It’s never too late to be something new like a budding feminist. It doesn’t take rocket science to learn that the system oppresses its members, but it does take a clear-eyed look at privilege. “The man” keeping folks down isn’t just an excuse for school or job dropout; it may be a colloquial naming of patriarchal society.  Solidarity is action to name oppression and take steps to push back against injustice. I learned all this in grad school since the big 60th and find in it the best hope for survival of our world. Continue reading “Feminist Awakening By Peggy Ventris”

On being an imperfect feminist: releasing definitions built in shame By Sara Frykenberg

A few weeks ago, a very interesting and in some places, tense discussion arose from John Erickson’s post, “Hands Off,” some of which related to the difference between what it means to be a liberal feminist and what it means to identify as radical.  Since then, I have been thinking a lot about what the identification “feminist” means to me, what it means to be an ally and how I am defining these categories.  Rather, I mean to say, against what kind of a standard am I applying this definition.

I think I have asked myself these questions many times in my life, in different ways, but perhaps most significantly I asked myself “am I a feminist?” when I started graduate school.  I was sitting in a classroom, set up like a circle, and all the women and two men in my… I think, “Gender and Education,” class were introducing themselves.  “Hello, I am so and so, and I have been a feminist for X number of years and I do this, etc.”  “Hello, I am so and so, and I am a feminist ally and I do such and such, etc.”—as I remember, some classmates identified more as allies.  When it came time for me to introduce myself, I said, “Hello, my name is Sara, and I am not sure if I am a feminist or not.  I thought I was, but I don’t know now.” Continue reading “On being an imperfect feminist: releasing definitions built in shame By Sara Frykenberg”

Mary Daly: My Springboard Into Critical Feminist Thought By Katie Driscoll

This post is written in conjunction with the Feminist Ethics Course Dialogue project sponsored by Claremont School of Theology in the Claremont Lincoln University Consortium,  Claremont Graduate University, and directed by Grace Yia-Hei Kao.

Katie Driscoll is pursuing an MA in the Applied Women’s Studies Program at Claremont Graduate University and is participating in the Feminist Ethics Course Dialogue project.

Mary Daly, a professor of theology at Boston College, is known as a radical feminist, one who is widely understood to have epitomized the stereotypical “man-hating femi-nazi.”  Daly earned the latter title as the result of a dispute with Boston College concerning her supposed refusal to grant male students admittance into her classes.  This dispute ultimately resulted in Daly’s retirement from Boston College in 1999.  Somehow, Daly remained a presence on campus, attending panels and other events for years to follow.  I had the privilege of meeting her twice while attending BC between 2002 and 2006.  I cannot claim that she was particularly warm or personable.  She was actually quite cold and demanding.  While I was never close to Mary Daly, I feel that I owe her my deepest gratitude for her role in my Self-discovery. I would like to take this opportunity to reflect upon her influence in my life and, utilizing the insights of some of Daly’s former colleagues and students, to set the record straight regarding her alleged refusal to allow men into her classes. Continue reading “Mary Daly: My Springboard Into Critical Feminist Thought By Katie Driscoll”

A Meditation on a Mantra: Sat-Nam By Sara Frykenberg

The following is a guest post written by Sara Frykenberg, Ph.D., graduate of the women studies in religion program at Claremont Graduate University.  Her research considers the way in which process feminist theo/alogies reveal a kind transitory violence present in the liminal space between abusive paradigms and new non-abusive creations: a counter-necessary violence.  In addition to her feminist, theo/alogical and pedagogical pursuits, Sara is also an avid fan of science fiction and fantasy literature, and a level one Kundalini yoga teacher. 

Sat-Nam.  It means, “My name is truth.”  Or if you will, I am who I am.  It is an affirmation in the Kundalini Yogic tradition, a greeting and a mantra.  According to one of my teachers, saying the phrase “Sat-Nam” even once changes something inside of you and accesses a resonant power attached to the vibration of the mantra.  Sat Nam.  I am speaking myself.  I am authentically me.

Sat-Nam. “I am who I am”… “I am that I am”… I write this interpretation of the mantra twice because it is uncomfortable for me.  It sometimes still feels blasphemous to utter this phrase: a phrase that I was taught in my Christian upbringing belonged to God and was the name He gave Himself (sic).  But when I feel this way, I am now inclined to ask myself, what is wrong with saying that I am me?  Do I really feel like this is a power that god/dess reserves for herself?  No.  I affirm me.  I exist. “I am,” means to me that I am living, breathing, lively and thriving in this space between life now and life later that I like to think of as an event horizon full of gravity and opportunity. Continue reading “A Meditation on a Mantra: Sat-Nam By Sara Frykenberg”

Love, Loss and Longing: The Rebooting of a Feminist Heart By Cynthia Garrity-Bond

It has been said time heals all wounds, I do not agree.  The wounds remain, in time the mind, protecting its sanity, covers them with scar tissue and the pain lessens, but it is never gone.  Rose Kennedy

 This past Saturday, August 6, would have been my 34th wedding anniversary.  Next Saturday, August 13 will be the wedding of my once fiancé.  The former lasted 20 years, the latter 10.  I have recently begun the delicate dance of getting to know another man; continuing to second-guess myself as if I’m a schoolgirl with her first crush, only I’m not.  I’m a woman drawing upon 30 years of the good, the bad, and the ugly.    Without sounding like Carrie Bradshaw from Sex and The City, I am asking myself what does a feminist relationship look like as it unfolds?  How do I trust another with a heart that is held together by Elmer’s glue?  And more importantly, how do I make myself present to another without past wounds surfacing and then projected onto the innocent?

In a recent post, XochitlAlvizo wrote on the difference, as she understands it, between sacrifice and love. All too often, argues Xochitl, we confuse the two, believing our sacrifice is what redeems us and others, when in reality, it is always love.  The distinction, while at times difficult to discern, is what can bring life to a healthy, loving relationship.  I can’t imagine not being steeped in a committed relationship without some sacrifice on my part.  But when does this practice of sacrifice become the support system for sustaining love?  How do I hold the balance of love and at times sacrifice for another without losing love of self? Continue reading “Love, Loss and Longing: The Rebooting of a Feminist Heart By Cynthia Garrity-Bond”

Speaking of Sacrifice and Rape Culture…by Xochitl Alvizo

Recently Gina Messina-Dysert, on this blog, wrote about rape culture and the church’s role in preserving it instead of challenging the norm of violence against women and victim blaming. And in my last post, after having just watched the last installment of the Harry Potter movies, I wrote about Lily’s love for Harry as being what saves Harry and not the sacrifice of Lily’s life; my point being that we need to give more credit to love as salvific and redemptive and not to sacrifice or suffering. For too long within Christianity,  Jesus’ death and ‘sacrifice’ have been held up as the core, the essence, the heart of Christianity – wrongly giving it a necrophilic emphasis that I do not believe is actually faithful to the Christian tradition. All this reminds me of why feminism is critical to my ability to stay within Christianity and that without feminism I would not be able to be a Christian-identified woman.

Every day in both small and enormous ways I see the effects and embedded patterns that result from the long history and dominance of patriarchy/kyriarchy. Everything from sexism and racism, to capitalism and the destruction of our world, these destructive systems are part of our daily environment and affect the quality of all our lives in devastating ways. And perhaps it is because I am a woman and I am directly and existentially affected, but, sexism, misogyny and violence against women are the things that most crush my spirit and break my heart. As I see these insidiously at work in many aspects of our society, and see the effects these have on us, women and men alike, I am saddened and angered to a level for which I have yet to find words to express. I feel it, the insidious trauma of sexism, misogyny, and violence against women, I feel their effects on me and others, but do so usually in silence or in tears. Lump in my throat. No words to speak. All I can do is continue in my commitment to live in a way that is different from these – in a way that is biophilic and affirming of all people as sacred and divinely in-Spirited. Continue reading “Speaking of Sacrifice and Rape Culture…by Xochitl Alvizo”

Qu(e)erying Our Lady By Xochitl Alvizo

I love art. I especially love certain women’s art – women such as Frida Kahlo, Cathy Ashworth, Sudie Rakusin, and Alma Lopez. To me, their art is a reflection of women’s strength, creativity, and beauty. Frida Kahlo, for example, expressed so many aspects of herself and her experience through her art. In it one can glimpse her passionate love for Diego Rivera, her continuous physical pain, her search for meaning, and the unending hopefulness she maintained throughout it all. Frida Kahlo’s art, like her person, was vibrant and full of life, colorful and yet broken. She expressed the wide spectrum of her experience not in words only but in color and images, texture, paint and print. As she put it, “I paint my own reality” – her own reality is what she knew and it is what she painted.

I rely on art to do what academics often cannot do well – what I cannot do well – which is to communicate the truths that rattle our being down to its deep core in ways that connect with others. There have been times in my academic life when I have encountered new insights that changed my life forever. Moments of being shaken and awakened at my very core by a truth that until then had eluded me. But such moments can be hard to share with others because they can be hard to translate to words, even if such moments have come to me by words. Learning about feminist theology and being shaken by the truths it spoke to me is one such encounter – and it was indeed an academic one that is often hard for me to put into words and explain to others. On the other hand, encountering Alma Lopez’s artwork was also a core rattling moment, but one which I can more easily share.

Our Lady - Lopez
“Our Lady” by Alma Lopez (1999)

Alma Lopez’s Our Lady is a digital art piece in which Our Lady of Guadalupe is depicted (embodied, really) in a more obviously female form than is traditionally expected. For this, every time her piece is on exhibit, Lopez receives a barrage of protest and harassment – as does the sponsoring institution. Accusations of obscenity, profanity, and blasphemy come her way.  But, why?

When I see Lopez’s Our Lady, I do not see blasphemy or obscenity, I see a celebration of the female and the sacred. I see the beauty of God’s queer incarnation – and I remember – I remember that the word became flesh and made her home among us. From the womb of a woman’s body, her life-giving body, the divine took human shape. Boundaries of sacred and profane forever blurred.

Alma Lopez, like Frida Kahlo, paints her own reality; she says this piece is a reflection of her relationship with Our Lady of Guadalupe, a divine image that has been part of her life since she was very young.  But I also think she reveals something more than just her personal relationship with Our Lady… Continue reading “Qu(e)erying Our Lady By Xochitl Alvizo”

Feminism, Ontology and the Priesthood of all Believers

At a surprisingly early age, perhaps nine or ten, I became the author of my own spiritual narrative, meaning, I took it upon myself to initiate and pursue the deep mystery of my faith.  Weekly Mass was an event, not an obligation, and something to which I attended without my family. The singleness of my worship at such a young age drew stares and whispers from those families who had arrived in tact. And while I was not unaware of their curiosity, I found it easier to lose myself in the absolute wonder of my environment. This was the world to which I belonged.  I was at once home and alive in a devotion filled with sacramentals, those objects of religious piety that created a force field of God’s protection around me. 

While the mystery of God’s love enveloped and graced my adolescence, a slow and creeping suspicion began to take hold of my faith. Because of my “girlishness,” I was barred as an alter server, and I began to absorb my otherness. I worried about my difference, and began to question the fairness of God. Telegraphic messages of inferiority caused me great confusion. The implicit reality that as female I was ontologically challenged, slowly sifted its way into my psyche and I would argue, my soul as well.

As a budding young feminist, what I found within the teachings of the church, either implicit or explicitly, did not coincide with what I felt to be the inner me.  On the cusp of adulthood, the collision between self and Church [read as God] was inevitable. The catechetical formation of my youth, of coming forth equally male and female in the image and likeness of God seemed like a childish myth and certainly not the reality of the andocentric church to which I was now departing.

Fast forward twenty years, and I cautiously found myself back in the Catholic Church, only this time in the arms of feminist theologians. I was hooked.  Their writings informed my life choices, directing me towards my current doctoral pursuit.  Yet I have found the academic arena is able to shield and protect me from the pain I continue to feel within the institutional church. To demonstrate the interweaving of the challenges and nourishment I experience as a Catholic I addressed above, I would like to share with you the following story. Continue reading “Feminism, Ontology and the Priesthood of all Believers”

Mary Daly: Radical Elemental Feminist and Sinner By Gina Messina-Dysert

While some argue that Mary Daly was too radical, I have been greatly influenced by her contributions to the field of feminism and religion.  I can still remember the first time I read a piece of her work.  It was during my undergraduate career at Cleveland State University in a course entitled “Women and Religion.”  I was immediately impacted and wanted to know more about this bold, strong and courageous woman, and although I had already considered myself a feminist, it was in that moment I recognized the existence of patriarchy in religion.  Shortly thereafter I applied to a graduate program in religious studies and became better acquainted with Daly’s work and the intersection of feminism and religion.

While I must admit that I am troubled by some of Daly’s claims and disagree with some of her contentions, I have also been significantly influenced by her foundational work in feminist theology, her demand for women’s liberation and Spinning of new tales and new ideas.  Daly called for women to have the courage to be, to experience a new fall out of patriarchal systems and into a new being that allows women to discover their capabilities, the dynamic power women possess within themselves.

According to Mary E. Hunt, co-founder and co-director of the Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual (WATER), “Her contributions to feminist theology, philosophy, and theory were many, unique, and if I may say so, world-changing. She created intellectual space; she set the bar high. Even those who disagreed with her are in her debt for the challenges she offered…She always advised women to throw our lives as far as they would go. I can say without fear of exaggeration that she lived that way herself.”[1]

While I never had the opportunity to meet Mary Daly, I have no doubt been inspired by her brilliance, courage, wit, and spirit.  My feminist and theological views have been shaped through her influence. I have been able to spiral into freedom and rename and reclaim my own experiences; I have found my own creative power.  Thank you for having the courage to sin big Mary Daly.

“There are and will be those who think I have gone overboard. Let them rest assured that this assessment is correct, probably beyond their wildest imagination, and that I will continue to do so.” – Mary Daly

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