The Institutional Silencing of Women by Natalie Weaver

Natalie Weaver

On July 26, 2013, I had the opportunity to hear Rev. Helmut Schüller speak at the City Club of Cleveland’s Friday Forum.  He spoke to a convened audience of around 150 people, in addition to the much greater broadcast audience, and he responded to questions that ranged from wholly supportive, to sincerely questioning, to highly critical.  I myself sat with a group of vowed religious women from Pittsburgh who seemed enthusiastic about Rev. Schüller’s Austrian Priests’ Initiative, while behind me sat a table of obvious, vocal critics.

Rev. Schüller’s initiative, now represented by over 400 priests, began in 2006 as an effort to mobilize priests to lead the way for change in the Catholic Church in at least four crucial areas: women’s ordination; married priesthood; same-sex marriages; and lay participatory voting in the election of their bishops.  Of course, Catholics have been having these conversations long before the Priests’ Initiative.  What makes Father Schüller’s work different is that it is an “insider job.”  He argued that the laity have done their part, and now it is time for the clergy to speak, even at some personal and professional risk to themselves. Continue reading “The Institutional Silencing of Women by Natalie Weaver”

The Hot Seat by John Erickson

Being a man in feminism isn’t easy and that’s how it is supposed to be.

men_feminist_mainI’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to be a male feminist lately.  As the only man to be a permanent blogger on this very site until my colleague and friend Kile Jones came on board, I took my role, as a man in a traditional feminist (online) space very seriously.  Although the ongoing struggle to be a male feminist is one continually wrought with dialogues about power and positionality (amongst a host of many other topics), I am often conflicted when I see male feminists take advantage and destroy the hard work that many, specifically on this site and beyond, worked hard to build and defend.

Not wanting to reopen old wounds or start new online battles, men have been involved in feminism for quite some time.  From James Mott chairing the first women’s rights convention, to radical feminist Andrea Dworkin’s life partner John Stoltenberg, to Michael Kimmel and Michael Kaufman’s life long work to legitimize not only men in feminism but also what it means to be a man who works for gender equality, being a man in feminism isn’t easy and that’s how it is supposed to be. Continue reading “The Hot Seat by John Erickson”

Neo-Orthodoxy: The Apotheosis* of Power as Power Over by Carol P. Christ

carol-christRecently I have been thinking about Neo-Orthodoxy, the leading  Protestant theological movement of the twentieth century, as a deification of male power as power over.  In the language of the schoolyard, this translates as “mine is bigger than yours.”  Or more precisely:  “God’s is bigger than yours.” 

Neo-Orthodoxy dominated Protestant theology in Europe and America in the mid-twentieth century and structured my theological education at Yale in the late 1960s and early 1970s.  Yale may have been “the bastion” of Neo-Orthodoxy, but Neo-Orthodox perspectives reigned in all the Protestant seminaries and were even celebrated in the media.  Neo-Orthodoxy may have some commonalities with fundamentalism but it was by no means an anti-intellectualist approach to theology.

A reaction to the perceived “impotence” of German Protestantism in the face of Hitler, Protestant Neo-Orthodoxy asserted “the commanding power of God” over against reason and culture.  Its leading advocates included the Swiss theologian Karl Barth, the German New Testament scholar Rudolf Bultmann, and the German theologians teaching in the United States, Reinhold and Richard Neibuhr, and Paul Tillich.  For all of them in different ways, the “Word of God” was a dynamic force that imploded into history challenging individuals and communities to turn away from egotism and “idolatry” defined as worship of something less than God–for example, self, nation, or wealth. Continue reading “Neo-Orthodoxy: The Apotheosis* of Power as Power Over by Carol P. Christ”

Birth Warrior by Molly

editMollyNov 083“In this culture…a woman can be made to feel foolish for emphasizing the centrality of giving birth to her identity or her personal religiousness, her ‘womanspirit…’” –Stephanie Demetrakopoulos (Listening to Our Bodies)

After the birth of my daughter in 2011, I received a small package from a Birthing from Within mentor friend. In it was a sweet little t-shirt imprinted with the words, My Mama is a Birth Warrior. The words on the shirt surrounded a labyrinth image, which I love as a metaphor for birth and life

Written on the enclosed card was the following:

Imagine a tribe in which a woman is prepared for childbirth in the same way warriors are prepared for battle. Imagine a Ceremony for this woman before she gives birth, a grand send-off with holy songs and fire. Imagine a feast, prepared just for her.

Her tribe tells her, they say to her “Go to your journey, you have prepared. We have prepared you. If you fall from your horse once or a hundred times, it does not matter. All that matters is that you come back to us, that you come home.

Throughout your journey–your labyrinth of Great Love, Great Determination, Great Faith and Great Doubt—you rode on!

The Great Tribe of Mothers welcomes you back from your birth journey with honor.

Modeling her little t-shirt.
Modeling her little t-shirt.

Imagine, indeed. After I read this note I reflected that I did feel I embarked on a mighty journey during my last pregnancy, I did pass through those Gates, and I did ride on. I AM a birth warrior!  Continue reading “Birth Warrior by Molly”

Hidden Meanings in the Rituals of the Assumption by Carol P. Christ

carol-christ“[T]he Old European sacred images and symbols were never totally uprooted; these persistent features in human history were too deeply implanted in the psyche.  They could have disappeared only with the total extermination of the female population.” Marija Gimbutas, The Language of the Goddess, 318.

August 15 is known to Greek Christians as the date of the Koimisi, “Falling Asleep” or Dormition of the Panagia, She Who Is All Holy.  December 25 is a minor holiday in the Orthodox tradition, while Easter and August 15 are major festivals.  The mysteries of Easter and August 15 concern the relation of life and death.  In Orthodox theology, both Easter and August 15 teach that death is overcome:  Jesus dies and is resurrected; Mary falls asleep and is assumed into heaven.  These mysteries contain the promise that death is not the final end of human life.  Yet this may not be the meaning of the rituals for many of those who participate in them.

In Christus Victor, Gustaf Aulen argued that Eastern (Orthodox) and Western (Catholic and Protestant) traditions understood salvation differently.  The Western Church focuses on salvation from sin, while the Eastern Church focuses on transcending death.  This contrast is not absolute, as for the Western Church sin is the cause of death and when sin is overcome, immortal life is restored.  While Orthodoxy has strong ascetic and monastic traditions, it does not teach ordinary Christians to focus on sexual purity and impurity as Western traditions have done.  Nor is there a strong emphasis on transforming collective sin in movements for social justice.  Significantly, though Roman Catholics and others consistently refer to the “Virgin Mary,” Orthodox Christians prefer “Panagia,” She Who Is All Holy.

In Greece the ordinary rhythms of life are disrupted at Easter and in August.  During lent, many women (and some men) fast, while in August women named Mary and Panagiota–as well as others who wish to honor or petition the Panagia–wear black for two weeks.

Assumption1Throughout the first 2 weeks of August, Greek Christians focus on the death of the Panagia.  According to theology, her Son appears after her death and “assumes” her into heaven.  The Orthodox icon depicts Mary surrounded by the Apostles, while Jesus holds the assumed body of Mary depicted as an infant wrapped in swadling clothes.

When she first saw this icon, my friend Naomi Goldenberg commented that it is an example of the widespread attempt on the part of men to appropriate the power to give birth.  The icon reverses the symbolism of the nativity where the baby wrapped in swadling clothes is held in the hands of his mother.  Christian baptism described as re-birth through the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is another version of “male birth.” Continue reading “Hidden Meanings in the Rituals of the Assumption by Carol P. Christ”

Who is the Church? by Linn Marie Tonstad

Linn Marie TonstadThe headlines blared, “Who am I to judge?” News outlet after news outlet led with the pope’s conciliatory stance toward gays, expressed during an interview aboard the pope-plane as he returned from Brazil. Among the several headers from Fox News (I encourage not clicking!), we find discussions of the pope’s “reaching out” to gays and even one that combines this development with his “urging” of a “greater role” for women. The New York Times story introduced the pope’s comments as follows: “For generations, homosexuality has largely been a taboo topic for the Vatican, ignored altogether or treated as ‘an intrinsic moral evil,’ in the words of the previous pope.” Ignoring the astonishing comment that this has been the case “for generations,” as though homosexuality has historically been the kind of issue for the church it has become in the wake of radical queer movements – see Mark Jordan’s several books on this for the most helpful treatments – the story went on to say that the pope’s comments “resonated throughout the church.” Although the NYT article did a better job than some contextualizing and nuancing the pope’s comments, they were still termed “revolutionary” in an assessment better suited to an opinion page than to a news report. Better-informed commentators, such as James Martin, offered a measured response. Martin said that although the pope’s remarks didn’t really signal a significant change in policy, “in the church, style often proves substantial,” implying that the “pastoral” tone might have effects in the implementation of policy. More significantly, Martin praised the pope’s adherence to Jesus’ injunction not to judge as an instance, first and foremost, of the pope’s commitment to mercy as the hallmark of his pontificate.

My Facebook feed, predictably, lit up with links to and discussions of these comments. While most were thrilled, a few posts noted that, even if Pope Francis is in fact (which is not proven) walking back Benedict XVI’s language of “intrinsically disordered,” the church’s policy has not and will not change in any significant way. What was missing in all but a few instances was attention to the pope’s comments in the same interview on women, and the deep theological problems with the assumptions contained in those comments. And while I, as a queer theologian, would never wish to downplay the struggles of LGBTQI people in the Roman Catholic church, there are rather more women than queers in that church (as elsewhere!). What’s more, it is arguable that it is the sexism and heterosexism of what Marcella Althaus-Reid memorably termed “T-Theology” that underlies condemnation of homosexuality in Roman Catholic theology. Continue reading “Who is the Church? by Linn Marie Tonstad”

Women’s Christian Heritage by Elise M. Edwards

elise-edwardsIt is difficult to carve out time in a course that covers Christianity from the past 2000 years to address material beyond the standard textbooks.  But yet, I must because the visual and material culture, the worship practices, and the daily activities of women and men who have called themselves Christians or followers of Christ throughout history also comprise the story of the Christian heritage.

Over the past several weeks, I have been developing material for a historical and theological survey course called “The Christian Heritage.” In the multiple sections of this course taught at my university, and I imagine similarly at schools across the country, students are assigned a course reader.  The reader we use is a collection of texts that have shaped the Christian faith from the first century to the 21st.  It is a good collection, and I have no objection to using it.  However, for the way I would like to teach the course, I will need to supplement the reader with other material.  I have two interrelated concerns: the reliance on texts as a way of determining theological history and the absence of women in that history before the medieval period (and even then the number of women included is small). Continue reading “Women’s Christian Heritage by Elise M. Edwards”

5 Interesting Facts about Women and Religion by Kile Jones

Kile Jones, atheistPart of my research is focused on how the social sciences relate to “religion” and religious studies.  More specifically, I spend time examining the sociology of religion.  I look at stats, demographics, and polls.  I look at rates of attendance, frequency of prayer, levels of “religiosity,” apostates (or the less religiously-loaded term “exiters”), and political outlooks.  I also look at how bias this area of study is in favor of religion.  One facet of this work that has always interested me, is the differences in “gender” and “sex” as they relate to religious beliefs and observances.  Accepting the fact that there are spectrums of sex, gender, and identity, and the presence of difficult philosophical questions surrounding self-identification and the limits of labels, some really interesting facts and statistics crop up time and time again.  In what follows I will lay out a couple of these interesting facts, along with some thoughts on them: Continue reading “5 Interesting Facts about Women and Religion by Kile Jones”


carol-christ“There’s a river of birds in migration, a nation of women with wings.” Goddess chant, Libanalabrys seal ring

On the Goddess Pilgrimage to Crete, I explain that many of the names given to “Minoan” (c. 3000-1450 BCE) Cretan artifacts and architecture are products of patriarchal and Eurocentric imaginations, and as such, are misleading.  For example the name “Minoan” was given to the culture of Bronze Age Crete in honor of “King Minos,” who was said to have ruled in Crete a few generations before the Trojan War–several hundred years after the end of the culture to which his name was attached.  In fact, despite his eagerness to find evidence that King Minos ruled at Knossos, the excavator Sir Arthur Evans finally had to concede that the best he could do was to produce a fresco of a “Prince of the Lilies” which he identifed as the image of the male ruler of the culture he called “Minoan.”  Evans’ Prince had white skin, a fact that Evans conveniently overlooked–because according to his own interpretation of “Minoan” iconography, white skin would mark the figure as female.  Mark Cameron, who reviewed Evans’ reconstruction of the fresco, suggested that the Prince is more likely to be a young woman who is perhaps leading a bull to take part in the bull-leaping games.  He also stated that the “crown” belonged to another fresco altogether.

Evans’ failure to find evidence of a King or for that matter a Queen at the complex of buildings he called “The Palace of Knossos” calls into question his idea that these structures were palaces.  Nanno Marinatos argued that the “palace” was instead a ritual center for the surrounding village, as well as a community gathering place, a place for storing grain, wine, and oil in a sacred way, and a place where ritual objects were fashioned of clay, bronze, stone, and gold.  Following her lead, I renamed the “Palaces” “Sacred Centers.” In this blog I will experiment with renaming the “Minoan” culture “Ariadnian,” after the pre-Greek name Ariadne, which may be one of the names of the Goddess of Bronze Age Crete.

One of the most pervasive–and many would say–most enigmatic symbols of the Ariadnian culture is the labrys.  Continue reading “THE LABRYS: A RIVER OF BIRDS IN MIGRATION by Carol P. Christ”

Blindness of the Gals by Oxana Poberejnaia

Oxana PoberejnaiaWomen (and men) are often blind to women’s inequality. I, as a Buddhist practitioner, have been blind to the reality of women’s second-class status in sacred texts of Buddhism and practice.

In her book “Buddhism After Patriarchy” Rita M. Gross describes how her fellow western Buddhist women completely overlooked the fact that women are not allowed into Rumtek Buddhist monastery in Sikkim, even after watching a video of a woman leaving an offering outside the gate and walking away.

Continue reading “Blindness of the Gals by Oxana Poberejnaia”

To Have and to Hold: Gay Marriage and the Religion Question

If a conservative religious traditions can’t give their mothers or sisters full equality, how can we expect them to give a GLBT individual the time of day?

John Erickson, sports, coming out.Outrage.  Anger.  Fear.  Hatred.  These are just a few of the words that flashed across my Twitter feed as I woke up on that fateful Wednesday, June 26 morning when the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that the Defense of Marriage Act (or DOMA) was unconstitutional and that supporters of Proposition 8, the hotly contested voter initiative in California that banned same-sex marriage, had no standing.   People were mad.  However, it wasn’t just the typical kind of mad that is associated with hatred, it was a type gay_marriage_81102178_620x350of mad that was met with impossible anguish because what I was reading and feeling was a result of one thing: there was nothing more they could do.

What does all this mean?  Questions from friends and family were filling up my inbox and although I wanted to take a moment to just hit “Reply All,” and input the words: Equality, I had to hold back and start to examine the notion that although equality may now be firmly on the proverbial table, there is still a lot of work to be done, specifically for gay marriage and those wanting to marrying inside the traditional church spaces they grew up in and not just the ones that have come out as open and affirming in recent years towards LGBT individuals. Continue reading “To Have and to Hold: Gay Marriage and the Religion Question”

The Story of Juneteenth by Kelly Brown Douglas

Tomorrow is a special day for me. It is Juneteenth.  On June 19, 1865, news finally reached Galveston, Texas that slavery had been abolished. This was of course two and a half years after Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation. While the actual impact of the emancipation for the enslaved remains a source of historical discussion if not debate, the fact of the matter  is that the proclamation of emancipation and the reality of freedom for black women and men did not necessarily coincide. To be sure, for a variety of reasons, the Emancipation Proclamation did not have an immediate impact on the daily lives of enslaved women, men and children.  While the “official” historical records marks   January 1, 1863 as a day of emancipation, the historical record for the descendants of enslaved men and women marks June 19, 1865 as the day of freedom. For, it was on this day that the last slaves were free.

While the celebrations of Juneteenth have waxed and waned over the years, it remains a day in which African Americans reflect upon the “mighty long way” we have come as well as the “mighty long way” we have left to go on the pathway toward freedom.  As I celebrate Juneteenth, in the words of a black gospel song, “My soul looks back and wonders how they got over.”  And so it is that my theological imagination is stirred, for it is clear that it was by faith that they (the enslaved) got over. And so I ask, what kind of faith was it that allowed them to get over, that is, to survive a life of bondage? This question is even more pressing to me each time that I am reminded that there were those who were born into slavery and died in slavery, and thus, as Toni Morrison once exclaimed, “never drew a free breath.” So, what kind of faith was it that carried these people through life? Continue reading “The Story of Juneteenth by Kelly Brown Douglas”


carol p. christ 2002 colorRape is not something that “just happens” in the military. It is an inevitable product of military training. Unless and until we understand this and change the way soldiers are trained, we will never be able to stop rape in the US military or any other military system.

The right to rape women of the enemy has been considered one of the “prerogatives” of warriors since the beginning of warfare.  Propaganda-Poster-MasculinityCould “military training” which “turns boys into men” by calling them “girls” or “women” or “gay” in order to break down their self-esteem and remold their “character” as soldiers be one of the reasons rape is such a pervasive problem in the military? Are “boys” being taught that the only way to “prove” their “manhood” is to replace “identification” with women—their mothers, sisters, girlfriends, wives—with a new “identity” as a “dominant male” who “dominates” women and weaker men?  I fear that if we fail to address the “core issue” of “military training,” we will never get to the root of the rape culture that pervades the military.

Unfortunately the model of training boys to be men by humiliating them with taunts that they are “girls” or “gay” is not limited to the military but is also a regular part of sports training.  In both the military and sports, terms like “sissy,” “wuss,” “pussy,” “faggot”–and worse–are regularly used by male authority figures in order to “spur” boys “on” to feats of “physical achievement” that require “punishing” their own bodies and the bodies of others.  The use of these epithets in the context of humiliation makes it clear that “a man” is not “a woman” or “a gay”:  “a man” is someone who has eradicated all of his “feminine” qualities while learning to dominate and humiliate women and effeminate men.

Is it any surprise that rape of women and effeminate or gay men is pervasive in the military and in sports culture? Continue reading “RAPE CULTURE IN THE MILITARY AND “TURNING BOYS INTO MEN” by Carol P. Christ”

Menstruation for Buddhist Women by Oxana Poberejnaia

oxanaNot all, but many women menstruate. The menstrual cycle is a contentious areas for feminists. Even men who aspire to be a feminist tend to find it difficult to deal with it. Inappropriate jokes ensue, and completely ignoring the issue is also a popular option.

My journey along a feminist path and toward the Sacred Feminine necessarily included working with my menstrual cycle. In this, Women’s Wisdom and the Menstrual Cycles articles  and Womb Blessings by Miranda Gray have been most helpful.

Continue reading “Menstruation for Buddhist Women by Oxana Poberejnaia”

God Doesn’t Live Here Anymore: Gay Bars and the Growing Divide Between Sexuality and Spirituality by John Erickson

oes God exist within the LGBTQ community anymore or has the community itself abandoned God for all-night raves, dance clubs, alcohol, and hypersexualized and over commoditized fetishized forms of femininity and masculinity? Oftentimes, I find myself answering yes to the above questions. After surviving hate crime after hate crime and endless batches of newly elected conservative politicians hell bent on ignoring medical and social epidemic plaguing the very country they were elected to serve and protect, why would a community, oftentimes linked to sin itself, believe in a holy entity?

John Erickson, sports, coming out.My good friend and fellow Feminism and Religion Contributor Marie Cartier’s forthcoming book, Baby You Are My Religion: Women, Gay Bars, and Theology Before Stonewall argues that American butch-femme bar culture of the mid-20th Century should be interpreted as a sacred space.  Specifically, gay bars served as both communal and spiritual gathering spaces where butch-femme women were able to discover and explore not only their sexuality but also their spirituality.  An opus of an academic accomplishment based off of the amount of in-depth interviews she conducted, Professor Cartier explores lived religion in an area that has become all too common within the LGBTQ community: the bar

The Palms, the last local and only lesbian bar to be found in city of West Hollywood, CA is closing its doors and I can’t help but wonder where its patrons or parishioners will now go? Continue reading “God Doesn’t Live Here Anymore: Gay Bars and the Growing Divide Between Sexuality and Spirituality by John Erickson”

Betraying Bodies by Kelly Brown Douglas

Her name was Tricia Meili. Their names were Yusef Salaam, Raymond Santana, Antron McCray, Korey Wise and Kevin Richardson.  On April 19, 1989 all of their lives were irrevocably changed. They would never meet, but their lives would become forever linked.  When they entered into Central Park on that night, did they know that they were stepping into a haunting history of dismembered bodies?  Tragically, their bodies would become another story to be told in that history.

On that April day in history some 34 years ago one white female body went into Central Park for her routine jog. Five black and brown male teenage bodies went into Central Park to hang out, but soon became a part of a crowd engaged in mischievous if not dangerous and out-of-control harassment of other park visitors. As the night wore on, police were called and arrests were made. It would later be discovered that Tricia was brutally and sadistically raped, but not by Yusef, Raymond, Antron, Korey or Kevin. Yet, the five young teenagers were badgered into confessions, charged with the rape and sentenced to prison. Continue reading “Betraying Bodies by Kelly Brown Douglas”

Are Buddhist Women Happy? Part II by Oxana Poberejnaia

oxanaIn Part I of this post I started asking questions about whether Buddhism in the West is part of patriarchy. Today I offer a possible link between practices of men’s Initiation Rites and some of the elements of Buddhism.

Men’s Initiation Rites

When we consider principle practices of Western Buddhists, primarily daily meditation and meditation retreats we might enquire something like this: since monastic practice is a model for our Western lay practice, do Buddhist monasteries constitute an extension and continuation of men’s long houses, places of men’s initiation rites?

Continue reading “Are Buddhist Women Happy? Part II by Oxana Poberejnaia”

Thanks for Coming (Out): Sexuality, Sports, and Spirituality by John Erickson

I have to be honest, Jason Collins’ admission that he was a homosexual, albeit brave, upset me. While coming out is an completely unique experience to every individual that does it, Jason Collins’ story was just another example of the rampant sexist and heteropatriarachal world that privileges male bodies and sexualities over women’s similar experiences. While I applaud Jason’s story and it’s timing, the first thing I asked to my colleagues was: Where was the hubbub over Sheryl Swoopes or Martina Navratilova?

John Erickson, sports, coming out. Like marking off items on a proverbial checklist, closeted LGBTQ individuals who exist within and outside of the world of professional sports, can recount the numerous things they struggle with in terms of their sexuality.  From fearing of the actual coming out process, dressing in their car or at home to avoid the subtle glances and whispers of individuals in the locker room, to wondering what coming out would mean not only for their game but also for their social and, if they choose, spiritual lives, closeted and out LGBTQ individuals within the multi-billion dollar professional sports industry must grapple with that age old question: what does it mean to be gay and open about it?

The Locker Room

I have to be honest, Jason Collins’ admission that he is a homosexual, albeit brave, upset me.  While I understand that coming out is an completely unique experience to every individual who does it, for me Jason Collins’ story was also an example of the rampant sexist and heteropatriarachal world that privileges male bodies and sexualities over those of women.  While I applaud Jason’s story and the timing, the first thing I asked to my colleagues was: where was the same hubbub over Sheryl Swoopes or Martina Navratilova? Continue reading “Thanks for Coming (Out): Sexuality, Sports, and Spirituality by John Erickson”

(Femen)ism? by Kile Jones

Kile Jones, atheistAs most of us are aware by now, there is a “feminist-sextremist” group from Ukraine called “Femen.”  This group has been very controversial by their public demonstrations of nudity, the words they paint on their bodies, and their explicit condemnations of political structures and organized religions.  They were started by Anna Hutsol in 2008 and have now spread throughout Europe and the Middle East.  The question I pose for this post is: Does Femen harness or hinder the power of the feminist critique?

Image from Konstantin Chernichkin/Reuters
Image from Konstantin Chernichkin/Reuters

Femen is precisely the kind of movement that pushes us in our understanding of feminism, the means by which it is best expressed, and the issues surrounding moral condemnation and religious sensitivity. Continue reading “(Femen)ism? by Kile Jones”

The Danger of the Patriarchal Domination Mindset: Can We Do Anything About It? by Thea Iberall

The Danger of the Patriarchal Domination Mindset: Can We Do Anything About It? By Thea Iberall The Swallow and the Nightingale

At the confluence of misogyny, prejudice, homophobia, religious intolerance, environmental destruction, and violence is the patriarchy. We all know this and talk about it here from our own perspectives. I come as a scientist and writer. I have a love of history and science as well as a skill at simplifying complicated things. I abhor what some people are doing to our planet and the arrogance with which they do it. Unfortunately, because we want the stuff they are manufacturing, because there are too many of us, and because we are letting them do it, they do it with our blessings. I want to help change this situation with a novel I’ve been working on for almost 15 years.

In the year 2000, I sat in a dinghy in the caldera of the active underwater volcano at Santorini helping my geologist sister count the bubbles coming from below us. The experiment was part of my father’s research into the origins of life. I had had the seed for a novel thirteen years earlier when I heard Mimi Fariña sing The Swallow Song, talking with her about her deceased husband Richard Fariña and how lost his music has become. I began developing ideas, learning about the nightingale connection and discovering a 12th century Sufi master’s epic allegory about god. Sitting in that dinghy, everything coalesced: the story of how western civilization went off course. My book of contextual poems, The Sanctuary of Artemis, explores the roots of Western patriarchal culture and tells some of it. The novel would have a backdrop of a world collapsing as ornithologist Dr. Deborah Wright is unwittingly guided by the Sufi to figure out why the Capistrano swallows are dying. It would include an underlying history of an egalitarian world lost when this volcano erupted in 1628 BC. Richard Farina’s song would be playing throughout the pages.  Continue reading “The Danger of the Patriarchal Domination Mindset: Can We Do Anything About It? by Thea Iberall”

Cosplay and Choice by Sara Frykenberg

Sara FrykenbergCosplay is often a deliberate, interpretive and self-chosen performance of gender and power.  Like drag performers, cosplayers put on a show of the characters they represent; and in my experience, they often do so within diverse, supportive and principally, inclusive communities. 

This week my husband sent me a great blog post he found about cosplay and one woman’s determination that she would no longer tolerate being demeaned, objectified or trivialized because of what she chooses to wear.  Blogger Megan Marie’s post, entitled “What would you do if you weren’t afraid,” inspires me.  She points out and refuses the trappings of rape culture: victim blaming, assumed male control over female sexuality and shame; and claims her right to be who she is.  I, as fellow (what is the female equivalent for fellow???) cosplayer, was also moved by her defense of this creative art.  I have been cosplaying a long time, but I have been too afraid to speak much about this or to directly protest the rejection of these fantasy images within some feminist communities.  So to answer Megan Marie’s question* in her own words, “What would you do if you weren’t afraid? My answer.  I’d write this blog.”

Coplay = costume + play!  It is the recreation of popular characters from video games, comic books, anime, scifi series, fantasy literature or the like.  Cosplayers do this for the fun of it, the craft involved, to express one’s fandom and sometimes, professionally, usually within an arena where fans can enjoy one another’s recreations.  The attempt to embody these characters involves a great deal of work and artistic expression.  Many conventions, like Fanime Con in San Jose, CA, host panels in which fans can learn cosplay skills, such as armor construction, wig making and costume design.  I have cosplayed the following characters: Sailor Star Healer, Eudial and Sailor Iron Mouse from the anime Sailor Moon, Misa

Death Note Cosplay: Misa and Light are in the center, flanked by their respective "Shinigami," or the death gods they are working with
Death Note Cosplay: Misa and Light are in the center, flanked by their respective “Shinigami,” or the death gods they are working with

from the manga Death Note, the Sorceress from He-man, a Star Fleet officer from Star Trek: The Original Series, and most recently, a giant “Angel,” Sachiel from Neon Genesis Evangelion.

Sachiel from Neon Genesis Evangelion: I am trying on my almost finished costume here!
Sachiel from Neon Genesis Evangelion: I am trying on my almost finished costume here!

I am currently planning a to make a Metroid out of an umbrella and to cosplay Nyan-kitty at the May conference that my husband (who will be playing Tac-nyan), my sister and many of my friends attend.

So, why the feminist-anxiety?  Continue reading “Cosplay and Choice by Sara Frykenberg”

Standing in Cautious Optimism with the Election of the First Jesuit Pope by Michele Stopera Freyhauf

Freyhauf, Feminism, Religion, Durham, Old Testament, Blogger, Bible, Gender, Violence, Ursuline, John CarrollFrom the time Benedict’s successor was revealed, I believed that we were witnessing something different – hopefully change.  Pope Francis I embraces many “firsts” – which is probably why the Cardinals chose him.  Change and reconciliation seem to be at the forefront – something the Church so desperately needs today.  Francis is the first Latin American Pope, first Jesuit Pope, first Pope to use the name of Francis after St. Francis of Assisi, a Saint held in high regard by Catholics.  When I heard his chosen name, I immediately thought of St. Francis, to whom my favorite prayer is attributed.  This is a prayer that inspires me and speaks about how I try to live my life –  as one who strives for peace, and provides love, hope, and compassion.  St. Francis’ story is a powerful story of conversion from a life of great wealth to one of voluntary poverty.  Francis received a revelation from Christ to “rebuild my Church,” in a way that embraces peace and love as well as providing protection for all of creation.  The notion of “Protector” was a major theme in Pope Francis’ homily during his inauguration mass.

As an unlikely choice for Pope, mostly due to his age and health, Francis reminds me of another unlikely advocate for the people – a man chosen to be Archbishop because of his passivity and his ill-health – Oscar Romero.  Romero surprised the people who placed him in office and stirred things up when he became a staunch advocate for the people that he served.  Romero’s “moment of conversion” revealed something spectacular that changed Latin America.  In his role as leader, he found his voice and became a defender for the poor and oppressed.  It is because of Romero that I am hopeful that Francis will provide (or at least start the wheels in motion to provide) changes to the Catholic Church. Continue reading “Standing in Cautious Optimism with the Election of the First Jesuit Pope by Michele Stopera Freyhauf”

Gods of War by Barbara Ardinger

Let’s talk about Mars and Ares. It’s common to think the Greek and Roman pantheons were identical and the gods and goddesses just had alternate names. This is not true. The Roman gods and goddesses personified civic virtues, whereas Greek mythology was largely philosophical.

I’ve been thinking about Carol Christ’s two excellent blogs about patriarchy and its connection to war and our so-called heroes. We read or watch the news today and learn about “our heroes” serving in the Middle East, about warriors who’ve come home and are suffering from deep wounds both physical and emotional. Yes, these men and women do indeed deserve our support…but, still, I ask, Why are people who are trained to kill other people called heroes? It’s a very thorny problem, and I must set it aside as I write this blog. Continue reading “Gods of War by Barbara Ardinger”

Gendercide: Words and Poem by Bernedette Muthien

engender, Bernedette Muthien, gendercide, poetry, violence against women, patriarchy,


 it took a full week

of straitjacketing generations

of genocidal femicidal trauma

for the clay dam wall to explode

and flood me in torrents

of collective grief

a poet with no words

a lifelong activist struck dumb

i choke on love for the dead

thousands of beautiful women and children a year

i puke for my incested cancerous country

and gag grappling for compassion of

perpetrators and the morally blind

in this breathtaking country

so brutally drenched in the blood

of ordinary women and children

i discover anew

that i fail to


my spiritual cadaver

is dragged under by the concrete limbs

of victims perpetrators witnesses

majority blinkered burdens

too busy scrabbling for survival

to fight for justice

as i contemplate the imminent refreshment

of my childhood starvation

my hunger for food agency adventure

leads me to stare the dragon in its ambered eyes

like a mirror of my ever-present shadows

Demon! Patriarchy…

how can I love you to death…?

— Bernedette Muthien (15 feb 2013)

for the billion women martyrs around the world… Continue reading “Gendercide: Words and Poem by Bernedette Muthien”

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