The Transformative Power of Daily Practices by Ivy Helman

My simple daily rituals and spiritual practices are what keep me mindful of G-d and G-d’s presence in my life.  They also remind me of G-d’s call to justice, care, compassion and love. 

“I find by experience, not by reasoning,

but by my own discovery that G-d is near me,

and I can be near G-d at all times.

I cannot explain it but I am as sure of my experience

as I am of the fact that I live and love,

but I know I do.

In the same way, I know I am in contact with G-d.”

This poem by Lily Montagu speaks to me.  I read it most mornings as I say my morning prayers, and it is one of those mantras I try to live by.  I have found that contrary to popular belief, sustained religious practices can be just as transformative as instantaneous conversion experiences.  This is why I have developed certain spiritual and specifically Jewish practices (For more about my joinery to Judaism, see one of my previous blogs “Reflections on my Spiritual Journey: Claiming Judaism”).  I find that they help me develop and cultivate a strong relationship with G-d.  For example, I keep a kosher home; wear a kippah daily; try to pray at least twice a day and before snacks and meals; practice the principles of Mussar; attend regularly Shabbat services Friday evenings at my Reform Congregation in Lowell and Saturday morning services at a Conservative congregation in Nashua, NH; light Shabbat candles; try not cook or create on Shabbat; make Havadalah to mark the end of Shabbat; give tzedakah as much as I can and study Torah with my friends.  This list is not all encompassing and there are quite a few areas of my practice I wish were more disciplined as well.

Continue reading “The Transformative Power of Daily Practices by Ivy Helman”

Hagar – Demoted Servant or Egyptian Princess? By Michele Stopera Freyhauf

A socio-political examination of Genesis 16 explores how ancient myth can influence the story of Hagar and Sarai. Socio-political events could have occurred between the Egyptians and King Solomon that influenced the writing of this text.  According to John Currid in Ancient Egypt and the Old Testament, the Egyptians and Hebrews borrowed many things from each other and because of that, an inter-relatedness exists between the languages as well as cultural and religious practices of both kingdoms (26).  It is this inter-relatedness that I wish to explore and ask the question -was Hagar an Egyptian Princess demoted to a lower position of servitude in order to make a political statement of superiority of the Israelites over the Egyptians?  Or is this a story of conflict between two of Solomon’s wives?  Finally, could this story tell us about events that occurred after Solomon’s death since the Biblical texts from the pre-exilic period began to take shape during the reign of David and Solomon?  This is a very brief exploration of these theories.

In Genesis 16, Hagar and Sarai connect Egypt and Israel in a familial relationship, one rooted in strife.  These two women, an Israelite and an Egyptian, are brought together because of Sarai’s barrenness and need to fulfill the covenantal promise. Because of this, Hagar becomes Abram’s secondary wife.  This is not the only time that marriage between an Israelite and Egyptian occurs in the Old Testament.  Joseph marries and an Egyptian, the daughter of a priest of On (Genesis 41:45).  Solomon also has an Egyptian wife who seems to have some importance because she is mentioned six times in the Old Testament (1 Kings 3:1; 7:8, 9:24; 11:1-2; 2 Chronicles 8:11).

Important is the fact that this passage could be rooted in the writings that emerged in that period that portray family strife.  Savina J. Teubal in Ancient Sisterhood: The Lost Traditions of Hagar and Sarah, states these “andocentric writing and editing” of the biblical narratives portray conflicts between women who “vie for the attention of their husbands or sons” (19).  In this case the story really could be a tale of family strife inspired by two of the wives of Solomon, one of which was Egyptian.

Continue reading “Hagar – Demoted Servant or Egyptian Princess? By Michele Stopera Freyhauf”

Jewish Weddings: Identity, Desire, and Anxiety by Amy Levin

As a Jewish feminist, I’m often critical of marriage. And, as a 26-year old (this month) who attended Jewish camp, leadership/environmental programs in Israel, and was active in Jewish youth groups growing up, I’ve been frequenting my fair share of Jewish weddings lately. These occasions bring me joy, nostalgia, and an overall reminder in the beautiful power of ritual and ceremony. But they also bring me a piercing sense of anxiety – one that I’m sure I am not alone in experiencing. I see marriage as a heteronormative and ideologically oppressive institution that promotes a hierarchy of relationships – being married as the most desirable form of a relationship, and remaining single as a failure of the female, much like not having children is seen as a failure of womanhood. I see the seventy billion dollar (or more) American wedding industry as representative of the capitalist impulse involved in the planning of weddings, bachelorette parties, and honeymoons, not to mention the violence involved in the so-called “blood diamonds” of so many engagement rings. Continue reading “Jewish Weddings: Identity, Desire, and Anxiety by Amy Levin”

Why I Failed Feminism 101: Gender, Sexuality, and the Power of Relationships

I forgot, that relationships, like feminism, are not easy, and that it is a conscious and continual effort of renewal to remind yourself everyday why you love the person you love and more importantly, in the case of feminism, why you fight, “the good fight.”

I was once told by my ardent feminist advisor in undergrad to “not put all my proverbial eggs in one man basket” after discussing my relationship with my boyfriend over a cup of coffee.  Thinking my relationship was different and that we were special, I heeded the warning but thought of it no further.  Now, looking back on it three in a half years later, I wish I would have.

Relationships are a powerful tool.  They help to make you feel special.  They help to bring you joy.  They help you discover the reason why a divine presence may have endowed us with the ability to love and most importantly they help you realize and discover things about yourself you may have never taken the time to notice.

Feminism 101 is more than just the pop culture stereotype of a bunch of women advising the younger generation of girls to be weary of men and the pain they can bring.  Feminism, specifically as what I now call Feminism 101, is the transformative ability to listen to your elders, trust yourself, and ultimately, if you happen to trust in the relationship you have built, knowing deep down that it is built on equality, love, and trust. Continue reading “Why I Failed Feminism 101: Gender, Sexuality, and the Power of Relationships”

Hoy, Canto de Mujer Que Se Libera – Un Canto de Ada María Isasi-Díaz, By Michele Stopera Freyhauf

“Yo soy mujer en busca de igualdad, no aguantar abuso ni maldad. Yo soy mujer y tengo dignidad, y pronto la justicia serd una realidad.  Mujer, tù eres mujer, porque supiste ver, la realidad de tu poder. Hoy canto al Dios del Pueblo en mi guitarra, un canto de mujer que se libera” – From “Mujeristas: A Name of Our Own!” – Ada María Isasi-Díaz [i]

Translation:  I am woman searching for equality; I will not put up with abuse and wickedness.  I am a woman and I have dignity, and justice will soon be a reality.  Woman, you are woman, because you have known how to recognize the fact that you are powerful.  Today I sing to the God of my people with my guitar, I sing a song of a woman who liberates herself.

Labels, names, and categories can evoke prejudice and oppression.  Ada Maria Isasi-Díaz, the founder of Mujerista Theology, wrote:

To be able to name oneself is one of the most powerful abilities a person can have.  A name is not just a word by which one is identified.  A name provides the conceptual framework and the mental constructs that are used in thinking, understanding and relating to a person. [ii]

These words relate to U. S. Hispanic women, who, according to Isasi-Díaz, struggle against ethnic prejudice, sexism, and in many cases classism [and who] have been at a loss as to what they should be called.[iii]  In finding that common name, lyrics from three different songs inspired Isasi-Díaz who developed the term “Mujerista Theology,” replacing Hispanic women’s liberation theology:

“Yo soy mujer en busca de igualdad, no aguantar abuso ni maldad. Yo soy mujer y tengo dignidad, y pronto la justicia serd una realidad.  Mujer, tù eres mujer, porque supiste ver, la realidad de tu poder. Hoy canto al Dios del Pueblo en mi guitarra, un canto de mujer que se libera” [iv]

For Isasi-Díaz, mujerista unifies Hispanic women and embodies strength.  Mujeristas are those:

Ada Maria Isasi-Díaz
Picture From Drew University’s website
  • Who desire a society and a world where there is no oppression.
  • Who struggle for a society in which differences and diversity are valued.
  • Who know that our world has limits and that we have to live simply so others can simply live.
  • Who understand that material richness is not a limitless right but it carries a “social mortgage” that we have to pay to the poor of the world.
  • Who savor the struggle for justice, which, after all, is one of the main reasons for living.
  • Who try no matter what to know, maintain, and promote our Latina culture.
  • Who know that a “glorified” self-abnegation is many times the source of our oppression.
  • Who know women are made in the image of God and, as such, value ourselves.
  • Who know we are called to birth new women and men, a strong Latino people.
  • Who recognize that we have to be source of hope and of a reconciling love.
  • Who love ourselves so we can love God and our neighbor.[v] 

For Isasi-Díaz, Mujerista Theology is defined as:

“a process of enablement for Latina Women, insisting on the development of a strong sense of moral agency, and clarifying the importance and value of who they are, what they think, and what they do….mujerista theology [also] seems to impact mainline theologies, the theologies which support what is normative in church, and, to a large degree, in society.”[vi]

Continue reading “Hoy, Canto de Mujer Que Se Libera – Un Canto de Ada María Isasi-Díaz, By Michele Stopera Freyhauf”

The Boldness of Grace Ji-Sun Kim by Grace Yia-Hei Kao

“The Grace of Sophia is an openly ‘syncretistic’ work.”

Continue reading “The Boldness of Grace Ji-Sun Kim by Grace Yia-Hei Kao”

Feminists Be Silent! Making a Stand in Solidarity with our LGBT Friends Against Bullying and Harassment By Michele Stopera Freyhauf

“A Day of Silence” occurs tomorrow, April 20th.  Created in 1996, University of Virginia students wanted to raise awareness of the bullying and harassment of issues that LGBT students faced on campus.  Since then, A Day of Silence makes a statement against those who have tried to silence LGBT teens and young adults in school through harassment, bias, abuse, and bullying. Participating students, led by GLSEN, will hand out cards that read the following:

“Please understand my reasons for not speaking today. I am participating in the Day of Silence, a national youth movement protesting the silence faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and their allies in schools. My deliberate silence echoes that silence, which is caused by harassment, prejudice, and discrimination. I believe that ending the silence is the first step toward fighting these injustices. Think about the voices you are not hearing today. What are you going to do to end the silence?”

Family Picture (
Family Picture from

The issue of bullying LGBT teens resonated with the world when Tyler Clementi took his life in 2010 after his roommate secretly transmitted via webcam Tyler’s sexual encounter with someone of the same sex. Tyler’s suicide brought national attention to the issue of bullying and harassment that LGBT people face.  To my chagrin, while writing this article, another victim fell.  Kenneth Weishuhn, Jr., a 14-year-old gay teen, committed suicide because of the intolerable harassment and bullying he dealt with at school.

To really understand the magnitude of this issue, I wanted to examine the statistics surrounding bullying. The numbers are staggering. However, when adding the LGBT component to that same teen, the numbers escalate.  Continue reading “Feminists Be Silent! Making a Stand in Solidarity with our LGBT Friends Against Bullying and Harassment By Michele Stopera Freyhauf”


The wages of the sin of sacrificing our children is their death, whether the sacrifice is to some supposed higher order, to absolute obedience or to appear to be the “good Christians” we are “supposed to be”…

Maybe its because I enjoyed the books more, or because of my sister’s all too expectation-garnering reviews or even, because I’d seen this theme before, in an amazing yet gruesome Japanese movie, Battle Royal, I left the theater unsatisfied after watching The Hunger Games. I did however, LOVE the song that played at the end of the movie, which I downloaded before we left the theater.  I listened to it in the car on the way home.  I listened to it the next day, the day after that and for days after that… I listened and listened, and I found surprise, power, anger, sorrow and a channel for grieving that I had needed in the Midrash “Abraham’s Daughter” by Arcade Fire. 

Abraham took Isaac’s hand and led him to the lonesome hill

While his daughter hid and watched, she dare not breathe

She was so still.

I discovered the practice and potential power of Midrash from my teachers in graduate school.  The idea of an “extra-biblical” story that might help to expound upon Biblical passages that are all too often unexplained or unsatisfactory to (my) feminist consciousness was very appealing to me—and it is still appealing to me.  But I have to admit that the feminist Midrash I read in my classes seemed too positive and did not resonate with me.  The pieces were too much like a tender hug or a mother hen covering my wounds with her wings.  I wanted to hear a story of Bible that could help me make sense of the violence I’d discovered in my childhood religion.  I needed a story of Bible that honored my violent struggle to counter the abuse within it and within me.

Like Isaac, I was too intimate with my abuser: unable to avoid walking hand and hand with him when pushed to do so.  Asked to create a prayer or Midrash for a class once, I wrote about the way I would turn the radio in my car up when I started to hear ‘God’ speak to me.  I didn’t know how to listen and tune out the abusive maxims that played over and over again in my head (maxims that surfaced every time I even thought about the divine).  Continue reading “A MEDITATION ON A MIDRASH: “ABRAHAM’S DAUGHTER” BY ARCADE FIRE by Sara Frykenberg”

Do Man-Made Laws Trump the Authority of Jesus? Reflecting on the Meaning of Humility, Priestly Service, and the Issue of Women’s Ordination by Michele Stopera Freyhauf

Maundy Thursday – the imitation of Jesus’ act of service and submission is re-created.  Controversy surrounds the “disciples” – must they be all men?  Are women allowed?  Who steps into Jesus’ role?  Men, women, or both?  Why, when it comes to imitating the act of  humility and priestly service (rooted in our baptismal call), does a distinction of gender need to made at all?

As I progressed towards the intersection, I looked up to witness a grand procession of men dressed in white albs with stoles that often contained subtle hints of gold, worn in a manner to distinguish their role as priests and deacons.  They moved slowly down the sidewalk entering the Cathedral to begin their celebration of the Chrism Mass – a celebration of priesthood and priestly service within the Diocese where all priests and deacons gather to celebrate and re-affirm their commitment to ministry and service to the Church.  It is also during this Mass that the oils used in sacramental celebrations, used by each church, are blessed by the Bishop.

As I continued to watch, I could not help but search the processional line for those with a hair color other than gray.  I wanted to see  how many young priests were in that processional line.  What I found was no surprise –  an aging group of men with the sporadic appearance of younger priests.   The numbers stood as a staunch reminder that we, as a Church, may be faced with a severe shortage of priests in the future.  Something already known and planned for by the Diocese in its campaign to consolidate and close parishes.

Another sad observation was put on public display  –  the absolute absence of women. Continue reading “Do Man-Made Laws Trump the Authority of Jesus? Reflecting on the Meaning of Humility, Priestly Service, and the Issue of Women’s Ordination by Michele Stopera Freyhauf”

The Hunger Games, Holy Week, and Re-imaging Ritual by Xochitl Alvizo

Being passive spectators of violence and injustice, even if mournfully so, is not just a thing of Panem, it is our everyday reality.

In The Hunger Games Suzanne Collins takes the reality of an unjust society and gives it an imaginative makeover. In Panem, most people are kept at such extreme levels of hunger that even when they do eat they cannot fill the hollowness that has settled in their stomachs, while others are deciding on the next cosmetic alteration they will undertake – whiskers, jewel implants, or green-tone skin color? The disparate conditions between the rich and the poor, the few and the many are absurdly and starkly portrayed but done so in a way that we can still recognize our world in theirs. And at the center of this world is the state imposed ritual of punishment and control, the yearly Hunger Games – a nationally televised competition that all the people of Panem are required to watch. The 12 districts watch mournfully as two kids from each of their districts compete to the death, and the wealthy watch gleefully, for the games are the height of their excesses and entertainment. The yearly Games conclude when one kid, the lone ‘victor’, is left standing. All while the nation watches. Continue reading “The Hunger Games, Holy Week, and Re-imaging Ritual by Xochitl Alvizo”

Waking up Muslim on 9/11 by Jameelah Medina

I have often stated that I went to sleep as an African American woman on September 10, 2011 and woke up Muslim on 9/11. It may seem odd to say this since I am a third-generation Muslim; however, my reason for doing so is that my life as an American Muslim now has two main eras: 1) pre-9/11 and 2) post-9/11.

In the pre-9/11 era of my life, I felt more black than Muslim because my color was a point of conflict and controversy throughout my life. I grew up in two areas as a child—an urban area with majority Latinos/as and then in a very rural area with majority whites. In both areas, being black was not so popular. I was called “mayate,”which is a bug but also the Mexican term for “nigger.” I was also called, “tar baby,” “nigger,” “African booty scratcher,” and a host of other hurtful names as a young black child.

In the post-9/11 era of my life, the main part of my identity that people focus on is my religion instead of my color. On 9/11, I went from being a nigger to being a “towel head,” from being a tar baby to being a “terrorist,” and from being the stereotype of an unruly and angry, loudmouthed black woman to being the stereotypically seen-but-not heard, oppressed Muslim woman in need of saving. As a Muslim, I suddenly was a potential threat and un-American, while as a Muslim woman I was also pitied and looked down on as misfortunate for being in a religion that oppresses me. In my life, white privilege and white monoculturalism have turned into Christian privilege and Christian monoculturalism. Continue reading “Waking up Muslim on 9/11 by Jameelah Medina”

“If You Allow Gay Marriage…” by John Erickson

“We need to start examining the underlying questions of counter-cultural relationships that view one man marrying many women to be hip because we begin to see that although a polygamist idea of marriage may be sexy from a popular culture standpoint, the thought of legally recognized gay marriage always then gets likened to bestiality.”

… you have to allow polygamy, bestiality, and everything else!” The title for my post this week is a quote from an individual I used to associate with.  This individual, haling from a conservative evangelical background, tried to explain to several others and myself the reasons why gay marriage would eventually lead to the repeal of anti-polygamy and bestiality laws across the United States.

The problems that I have with this particular argument are conflating gay marriage with religious freedom.  Activists and scholars can draw comparisons to anti-polygamy cases such as the 1878 U.S. Supreme Court case Reynolds v United States and the 1882 Edmunds Act and 1887 Edmunds-Tucker Act that disfranchised and led to the imprisonment of Mormon polygamists. But in the end, gay marriage is not about religious freedom but rather human rights.

I often feel that there is this need both within and outside religious communities to promulgate the idea that LGBTQ individuals want to get married within the sanctified walls of “the church” just as much as heterosexual couples do.  Although I do not want to disqualify those who desire to see LGBTQ equality within their faith based communities, buying into a heternormative ideal of what traditional marriage should look like needs to result in LGBTQ individuals asking why marriage should be performed in sacred spaces in the first place The normative traditions that have often defined marriage have also served as shackles keeping LGBTQ couples in the mindset that to achieve fully marriage equality with their heterosexual counterparts is to fully immerse themselves within the same traditions and practices. Continue reading ““If You Allow Gay Marriage…” by John Erickson”


“So it all kind of depends… even in men compared to men, and women compared to women, you would have to have a counterpart to judge something as yin or yang—you are never statically just yin or just yang…”

Elisa Fon is a student of acupuncture, graduating this semester from Yo San University in Santa Monica, CA.  She also studies reiki, energy healing, meditation and yoga.  Elisa and I have known each other for most of our lives as friends, as one another’s support and as chosen family.  Over the last few years, however, we have more consciously fostered an intentional aspect of our intimacy: a challenge to each other to live more authentically, to walk counter-abusively and to live towards physical, spiritual and emotional empowerment.  One privilege of this relationship has been the opportunity to create a language together in order to speak across our differences and share our respective passions: feminist theo/alogies (mine) and Chinese medicine/ healing arts (Elisa’s).

Searching for a way to better understand and teach feminist Taoism, I reached out to Elisa for dialogue and language, which gave birth to the following interview about the relationship of one feminist to Taoism, or a Taoist to feminism. Continue reading “A FEMINIST TAOIST VOICE PART 1: MY DIALOGUE WITH ELISA FON, ACUPUNCTURIST, TAOIST, FEMINIST AND FRIEND by Sara Frykenberg”


I attended a service at Congregation Shalom in Chelmsford, MA two Fridays ago.  During the service, Rabbi Shoshana Perry spent a few minutes addressing the last word of a Hebrew prayer found in the Reform siddur, Mishkan T’filah.  It was translated in the siddur as “God rested” but the Hebrew word used was vayinafash, which comes from the word nefesh, or soul.  The prayer emphasizes on the seventh day that God did not rest as much as God took time out to re-soul.  Rabbi Perry believes that our Shabbat should be spent doing things that help us also re-soul.

Initially, I spent quite a long time considering why God would need to re-soul and what exactly God would do to re-soul.  When I realized the futility of trying to sort that out, I moved a little closer to home: what do I do on Shabbat to re-soul?  I was quite overwhelmed trying to answer this question as well.

Traditionally, Shabbat is about study, rest, prayer and family among other things.  In fact, many Jews avoid creative processes like writing, cooking, painting, driving and working because God rested from creative work on the seventh day.  (Incidentally, our creativity is also how we are considered to be made in the image of God).  Part of the reason this idea struck me so deeply is because I often find painting, cooking and writing rejuvenating. Continue reading “RE-SOULING ON SHABBAT BY IVY HELMAN”

Sanctioned Ignorance and the Theological Academy By Egon Cohen

Namsoon Kang writes that dislocation can be a theologically transformative process of self-discovery, using the metaphor of the “homeless traveler . . . leaving home for Home.” Kang also states that one’s identity—one’s location as traveler—is necessarily influenced by one’s position along axes of identity such as race, religion, ethnicity, class, gender, ability, and sexuality. And it is at this interstice that I, and many other liberationist theologians, grapple with issues of privilege. We are committed to traveling with the marginalized, but our luggage is packed with advantages denied to our companions. Indeed, as individuals with the luxury of pursuing advanced theological studies, most academic theologians operate within a space of significant privilege.

In this regard, I have observed four main typologies of response: (1) denial, (2) guilt, (3) cataloguing, and (4) instrumentalizing. It is hard to constructively engage the first type of response within the present discussion—the existence of such institutionalized privileges is one of my implicit operating premises, so I will bracket this analysis for another occasion. Similarly, I believe that the constructive/transformational capacity of guilt for or detailed acknowledgment of privilege is quite limited. So the question becomes, how do white and/or male and/or heterosexual and/or “first world” theologians instrumentalize our privileges for and (more importantly) with our “fellow travelers”? Continue reading “Sanctioned Ignorance and the Theological Academy By Egon Cohen”

My Body Tells A Story: Embracing my Scars and Imperfections By Michele Stopera Freyhauf

As we approach New Years Eve, there is an emphasis on losing weight, getting in shape, etc. in the coming Year.  We make resolutions to better ourselves and reflect on the year that passed us by.  With the impending New Year, there is also a realization that we become a year older, which for some means more grey hair, wrinkles, or other marks that appear on our body.  It is safe to say that we live in a world that is obsessed with body image and the search to find the fountain of youth.  In fact, TV is plagued with reality shows that perpetuate this obsession.  Keeping up with the Kardashians displays such a problem.  People who watch this show watch Kris Jenner’s facelift to her struggle with body image despite the fact that she gave birth to six healthy children and is 56 years young.  There are also shows that show people obsessed, even addicted to plastic surgery – they are trying to attain perfection, attempting to reverse the aging process, and remove the scars of their lives. Continue reading “My Body Tells A Story: Embracing my Scars and Imperfections By Michele Stopera Freyhauf”

A Reflection of What Influences and Controls My Ideologies: An Examination Of Althusser’s Ideological State Apparatus By Michele Stopera Freyhauf

 Michele Stopera Freyhauf:  Feminist scholar, activist, and graduate student in religion and biblical studies at John Carroll University, Michele is the student representative on the Board for Eastern Great Lakes Biblical Society (EGLBS) and author of several articles including “Hagia Sophia: Political and Religious Symbolism in Stones and Spolia.”  Her research interests involve Feminism, Sexuality, the influence of Goddess imagery, Myth, and Rhetoric especially in the Old Testament, Ancient Egypt and Early Christianity.  She also focuses her research in feminism, migration studies, and genocide as it relates to women, especially in the Middle East and Latin America.

Exploring the new world of historiography this semester has been an adventure.  In my studies, I came across an interesting person named Louis Pierre Althusser.  He is considered a structuralist Marxist and in 1970, he wrote an essay titled Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses (Notes towards an Investigation).  The basis of his argument explores how various institutions control the working class.  We have our ideas taken from or given to us because we were essentially molded by various institutions that are being controlled by an agency of power, like government or church.  Someone has told us what it is to be moral and ingrained that definition.  Someone has influenced our idea of what it means once you graduate from high school then college.  Someone else has defined the benchmark for wealth and happiness or when we have enough “stuff.”  Ideologically we are controlled by so many outside factors.  It is this point that I want to reflect an explore as a Feminist, a mother, a graduate student, and part of the proverbial 99%. Continue reading “A Reflection of What Influences and Controls My Ideologies: An Examination Of Althusser’s Ideological State Apparatus By Michele Stopera Freyhauf”

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”

Reflecting on the Construction of Race as our National Identity Shifts By Helene Slessarev-Jamir

The following is a guest post written by Helen Slessarev-Jamir, Ph.D., Mildred M. Hutchinson Professor of Urban Studies at Claremont School of Theology.  Her research focuses on the character of religiously inspired justice work in response to globalization and American empire.  Helene is a member of the Board of Directors and writes for Sojourners; she has authored multiple articles and books including most recently published Prophetic Activism: Progressive Religious Justice Movements in Contemporary America.

Today my son Stephan celebrates his 31st birthday. In the year Stephan was born he was one of very few bi-racial children in the U.S. I personally knew of no one else who had a bi-racial child. His father and I agreed that given the racial realities of the U.S. in 1980, he needed to be raised as an African-American because that was how he would be perceived. We consciously constructed Stephan’s identity as black.

We lived on the Southside of Chicago in an all-black neighborhood. Yet, when he was ready to enter elementary school, I was advised to register him as “white” so that he would have a better chance of being admitted into the local public magnet school. Having resisted any significant plans to desegregate its public schools, the Chicago Board of Education used racial diversity as one of the main criteria for admission into their magnet schools. As a result, Stephan became one of the “white” children in his 1st grade classroom even though all the faces in his school photo were varying shades of brown. Continue reading “Reflecting on the Construction of Race as our National Identity Shifts By Helene Slessarev-Jamir”

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