Exercising Women’s Religious Voice and Authority – Why is this Still an Issue? by Elise M. Edwards

elise-edwardsOver the past few days, I’ve been spending time at a church in Alexandria, Virginia conducting oral history interviews.  I’m doing research for a project about the arts and the church that has me diving deep into the church’s congregants’ and leaders’ experiences. Yesterday’s conversations offered insight about many theological topics that interest me, but what was particularly encouraging was what I witnessed concerning women in ministry.  That’s not what I was looking for, but it is what I needed to see.

Before beginning these interviews, I had already been thinking about the ways women’s authority and voice are often challenged.  This past weekend, I attended a regional religion conference where I assumed a leadership position and my voice was sought out for advice and insight.  I had great conversations with other women in academia about wellness and success while I was there.  Attending the conference provoked fond memories of a similar conference many years ago, when I connected with many colleagues in this FAR community and we discussed the theme of “Women and Authority.” Those were positive experiences.  But I had an unpleasant encounter, too, when I was on the receiving end of a male colleague’s condescending remarks.  I was also made aware of a disturbing incident in which a woman of color was publicly disrespected while speaking at a university event and subsequently trolled.  Those experiences triggered anger and deep sadness. To be honest, I also felt a sense of resignation and defeat.  Patriarchy is just so persistent.

Continue reading “Exercising Women’s Religious Voice and Authority – Why is this Still an Issue? by Elise M. Edwards”

Gas-lighting on Al Franken(stein)’s Street by Elisabeth Schilling

I will add my #metoo, but don’t feel like going into details. I will just say that in light of my past experience and Al Franken’s statement of apology, I’m realizing why some of us don’t tell at an even deeper level.

This is Al Franken’s statement:

“I’ve met tens of thousands of people and taken thousands of photographs, often in crowded and chaotic situations. I’m a warm person; I hug people. I’ve learned from recent stories that in some of those encounters, I crossed a line for some women — and I know that any number is too many. Some women have found my greetings or embraces for a hug or photo inappropriate, and I respect their feelings about that. I’ve thought a lot in recent days about how that could happen, and recognize that I need to be much more careful and sensitive in these situations. I feel terribly that I’ve made some women feel badly and for that I am so sorry, and I want to make sure that never happens again.”

Summary: It’s super hard to be a guy in this society.

Continue reading “Gas-lighting on Al Franken(stein)’s Street by Elisabeth Schilling”

Tall Order by Sarah Kiefer

I saw an interesting headline the other day entitled: “Olympic Gymnast Hits Back at Body-Shaming.” I immediately thought, “Wow not again.” The fact that body-shaming is even an expression is a disheartening commentary on the society we live in today. Women’s bodies have long been the subject of casual objectification in our culture and in the media. The fact that people think it’s ok to comment on a woman’s body, in whatever fashion pleases them, blows my mind. Not only is it disrespectful, but it comes from the problematic way society equates a woman’s worth with her beauty.

People have diverse ideas of beauty, and different cultures value different physical qualities, but this does not mean that those who don’t live up to the ideal should be shamed. In the article, Gymnast Aly Raisman relates an experience at an airport where a female employee recognized her and mentioned one of the reasons was “because of her muscles.” A male colleague then stated “Muscles? I don’t see any muscles” and “continued to stare” making Raisman feel uncomfortable. She then took to twitter to relay the events stating: “I work very hard to be healthy and fit. The fact that a man thinks he can judge my arms pisses me off.  I am so sick of this judgmental generation.” Continue reading “Tall Order by Sarah Kiefer”

The Definition of Strength, Gaslight Edition by Vibha Shetiya

13327613_10208448645447348_6913754683590458893_nRecently when I was feeling low and a little devoid of hope, a friend of mine paid me a fabulous compliment: “Things will get better. You’re a very strong person.” I know it was a real compliment and not an underhanded cutting remark. You may be surprised as to why I am referring at all to the latter. After all, it’s straight forward – having strength and fortitude are admirable qualities and how could one possibly even think otherwise. But you may be equally surprised to know that there are very special circumstances under which the word “strong” gets to acquire extended meanings of: “devoid of feelings,” “someone who needs zero support,” “a social insult.”

Take the time when I got divorced several years ago, undoubtedly one of the most difficult periods of my life, compounded by the fact that I found myself despondently alone. Continue reading “The Definition of Strength, Gaslight Edition by Vibha Shetiya”

Resisting Shame and Choosing to Live through the Loving Eye by Stephanie N. Arel

This week, I finished reading The Politics of Reality: Essays in Feminist Theory by Marilyn Frye, a text I had not encountered in my studies of feminism (in literary theory, psychology, philosophy, or theology) until now. In some ways, I wish I would have read it sooner. In other ways, I am grateful for this more recent rendezvous. From my current position and perspective – theoretical and personal – I was, I think, more able to hear the core message Frye conveys than I would have been years ago. I have less to protect now, and my ego is less fragile. In the text, she names the mechanisms around which Western – and patriarchal – cultures are founded. Her argument is fluent and cogent, even as it threatens the stability this culture offers. Our lives are embedded in it, even if our personal ethics point to alternative, feminist ways of living. Frye pushes her readers to live alternatively, so that we can recognize the times that we conspire/feed into/comply with patriarchal messages and clean the residue of servitude off of our skin.


For the purposes of this post, I engage two opposing concepts Frye presents in the text: the arrogant eye and the loving eye. Located in the chapter entitled “In and out of Harm’s Way: Arrogance and Love,” Frye investigates how men in phallocentric culture exploit and enslave women. The opposing, contradictory eyes of arrogance and love directly relate to the experience of shame which effectively serves to subjugate women in patriarchal culture.


Shame functions within what I call a logic of exposure. Shame relates intimately to the concept of being seen.  Affectively, shame results from our interest/excitement being partially truncated. For instance, we are drawn to someone (real or imagined); we are interested in their response to us, and somehow something interferes with the desire to connect. Contact is cut off, and interest/excitement partially halted. Shame ensues. We experience that someone (real or imagined) seeing us as other, different, foreign, maligned, wrong, or worthless. We are seen wrongly. This misperception alleviates joy and relates to the gaze of the arrogant eye under which (as the default gaze of phallocentric culture) we often find ourselves seeking approval.

Continue reading “Resisting Shame and Choosing to Live through the Loving Eye by Stephanie N. Arel”

Encountering and Countering Self-Disgust by Stephanie N. Arel

In my last post, Trump’s Misogyny – A Case for the Contempt-Oriented Personality, I wrote about disgust, claiming that media diagnosticians failed to identify disgust- contempt as part of Donald Trump’s psychological profile. At the end of the piece, I said that the statement “Make America Great Again” was misogynistic. I maintain this claim but now want to consider disgust a little more closely – particularly when it constitutes self-disgust underlying or complicit in misogyny. Confronting and ameliorating self-disgust provides an entrance into combating misogyny.

Self-disgust interferes with self-love. As a result, self-disgust impedes connection and empathy in human relationships. Self-disgust also attenuates intimacy –self and other directed. Self- disgust manifests in multiple ways – in withdrawal, refusal to engage, self and other directed violence, addictions (including those to negative affect), etc.: the list is a long one. Self-disgust which manifests as hubris motivates the projection of disgust onto others, so that the other becomes the source of disgust; the abject unwanted object present in the self – rejected and discarded –becomes transported, launched to rest on the back of another.

The simple way to describe this mechanism emerges in self-help literature that suggests that the thing that one dislikes most in others is that which one cannot tolerate in oneself. This negatively perceived part of self can also be conceptualized in terms of Carl Jung’s notion of the shadow – the unknown dark side of the personality which we all carry but whose integration into conscious life defines its denseness, or the weight of its impact. The more conscious we are of our shadow, the more we are able to identify that what we recognize as a deficiency in another is actually what we understand as a personal inferiority. Continue reading “Encountering and Countering Self-Disgust by Stephanie N. Arel”

The Real World Series by Natalie Weaver

Natalie Weaver editedI live in Cleveland, and I am writing at the end of the World Series.  I don’t know how it will conclude, but like most of the people in my city, I’m holding my breath.  As I write, I literally just left the cardiac ward of one of the Cleveland Clinic hospitals, where patients’ lives actually seemed to hang in the balance of the game, according to one of the nurses who was monitoring heart rates from a central station in the hallway.  

I, who never cared about baseball and avoided Cleveland sports, am more than a little surprised at myself.  For, I have grown to care about the outcome of these games.  Why so, I ask myself.  Why am I sitting with my mom in the hospital, watching a game, when she’s ill, and neither of us has ever cared about sports?  I’ve been thinking about this recently, and believe I have landed on the right answer.

You see, when you are from Cleveland, it is not uncommon to have this precise conversation or some permutation thereof:

Self: Hi.
Stranger: Hello there.  Nice to meet you.
Self: Where are you from?
Stranger: Denver
Self:  Denver is a lovely city.  I visited for my friend’s wedding once.
Stranger:  Yes.  We love it out there.  Great weather; friendly people.  What about you… where are you from?
Self: Cleveland
Stranger: (chuckling) I’m sorry.  Mistake on the Lake.  River’s on Fire.  Etc.

Clevelanders are made to feel shame about our city, whereas, by contrast, Chicago is heralded for its architecture, food, and skyline, and so one.  Now, I have lived in Chicago.  It is beautiful and all that, and, more importantly, Chicago is not what I am writing about.  What I have come to observe about myself is that I actually love Cleveland for what it has to offer, which primarily includes people.  Hard workers, brilliantly talented musicians, artists, actors, educators, physicians, architects, and more.

I have grown to appreciate the people and stories that built the city’s heritage, culture, ethnic churches, diverse neighborhoods, beautified lakefront, museums, international airports, colleges and universities, rivers, parks, gardens, and on and on.  There is persistent and nearly inevitable derision that is glibly tossed our way here in the Two-One-Six.  I realize, it has worn me down over the years.

And, especially when I travel for academic conferences and chat over drinks at the receptions, I am tired of playing Justin Martyr to the city, in large measure to defend my own merit as a scholar and educator.   Continue reading “The Real World Series by Natalie Weaver”

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