Rape Culture and Muslims by Vanessa Rivera de la Fuente

rape culture

There is no doubt that Rape Culture is installed within religions and Islam is not an exception. Lately, “honorable Islamic scholar,” Nouman Ali Khan (NAK) was exposed as sexual predator, causing a battle in social media. NAK is only one more in the list of sexual offenders operating in religious spaces, on many occasions with the support of opinions leaders, or the silence and blind eye of the community of believers.

During my months in Cape Town, as you know, I engaged in critical education in Gender and Islam through workshops with Muslim women from the Cape Flats, where the rigid dynamics of researcher-object of study, gave way to an equal interaction of “people talking.” A recurrent theme, as I said in a previous article, was sexual violence and the discursive tenets that facilitate it.

In the light of the controversy aforementioned, I want to share excerpts that I recorded during our sessions of the sincere statements of Muslim women between 25 and 60 years old from different suburbs of Cape Town on Rape Culture and religion as they live it.  Continue reading “Rape Culture and Muslims by Vanessa Rivera de la Fuente”

Me, Too: How do we heal rape culture? — Part 1 by Trelawney Grenfell-Muir

Along with others, I have felt relief, sorrow, and frustration watching hundreds of “me, too” posts and narratives flood my feed. Relief that our society is paying attention to the epidemic of misogynist violence in a new way, that we are having crucial conversations about how bad it is and what to do about it. Sorrow at the amount of suffering and oppression it highlights (I will not say reveals… anyone who bothered to look would know the scope and severity of this nightmare). Frustration that it seems no matter how many media campaigns emerge – #VDay, #YesAllWomen, etc – I cannot tell whether we are making any progress at all. It does not seem to me that my daughters are any safer today than they were ten years ago. If anything, it seems that our culture has begun accepting open, flagrant misogyny in new and unprecedented ways and degrees.

However, it does seem that more and more people are pointing out that in order to stop most rape and harassment, we must teach boys and men not to rape and harass people, especially not girls and women who are the main victims of abuse. Various types of pledges, apologies, question prompts, confessions, and other statements from male allies have emerged on social media. In addition, there’s the usual round of women criticizing each of these responses from male allies. As usual, the Left loves to eat its own.

I view allies on a spectrum, and I try to recognize where different men are on this spectrum, and how to help them move forward to the next level. If we truly want to heal rape culture, if we truly want to build a world that is safer for each generation, we must put down our egos, our need to win every argument, our smugly satisfied self-righteousness, and adopt effective strategies that will actually do what we claim to want to do. Continue reading “Me, Too: How do we heal rape culture? — Part 1 by Trelawney Grenfell-Muir”

In Church, Mosque, Temple, Coven, Synagogue, Whatever — #MeToo Lives There by Kate Brunner

The diversity of the stories of people who have experienced sexual harassment or assault shows that this is not a partisan issue. Conservatives and liberals, rural and urban, religious and non-religious, sexual harassment and assault cross every boundary. It happens on college campuses, in the workplace, on the street, and, yes, in church.–Rev. Kira Schlesinger

Image by Juana Medina

When I was a teenager, a friend in my church youth group somehow mustered the courage to come forward to disclose the sexual misconduct of our youth group director. What happened next was ugly and my first real-life, in-your-face lesson about how patriarchal systems treat victims who dare to speak truth to power. Later, after the initial chaos began to subside, grown women with jobs, lives, and families of their own who had once been teen girls growing up in that same church community began disclosing to their families that he had preyed on them as well over the years.

Before hashtags were even a thing, that was my first experience with the essence of #MeToo — with women finding strength and solace in validating each other in their shared trauma.

As Rev. Schlesinger states above, this is not a partisan issue — or at least, it shouldn’t be. Nor, I would add, are Christianity and its churches the only religious institutions in which sexual harassment, abuse, and assault happen. While this particular teenage Confirmation class drop-out went on, as an adult, to find a spiritual home in a Pagan tradition, I am well aware that Pagans, Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, etc. all see the same abusive situations play out over and over again within our traditions and our specific faith communities. Cardinal Pell, Kenny Klein, Rabbi Greer, Imam Saleem. My old youth group director, your former JCC teacher, her current archdruid. Big names or just locally familiar ones, the tragedy of it all is that as we continue to stand at the crossroads of feminism and religion, we’re hardly surprised anymore.

As the #MeToo posts across various forms of social media continue to stack up by the hundreds of thousands, we’re heartbroken and rising, bitter and healing, triggered and refusing to be silenced, filled with love for our fellow survivors and brimming with righteous fury. But the one thing we’re not, is surprised.  Continue reading “In Church, Mosque, Temple, Coven, Synagogue, Whatever — #MeToo Lives There by Kate Brunner”

Rape, Community and Healing by Vanessa Rivera de la Fuente

During my last months in Cape Town I have been facilitating a series of workshops on Rape, Gender Justice and Culture of Consent. I am blissful for the opportunity to teach and learn with a group of people with whom we have navigated in the approach of Rape and Sexual Assault in their different perspectives, from the socio-political to the intimate tenets.

This has been an exciting journey of healing and soul blooming. I have realized the critical role that Cape Town has played in pushing me towards empowerment and thriving, enhancing my taking back ownership of my body and all the experiences happening through it.

This journey started few years ago when I decided to come out of the closet as a rape survivor. I wrote about it on Feminism and Religion. This was the first step of my breakthrough. Little by little I became confident and shameless about saying: “Yes, I was raped”.

Continue reading “Rape, Community and Healing by Vanessa Rivera de la Fuente”

In This Fractured World, I Will Not Remain Silent by Karen Leslie Hernandez

karen hernandezThe recent killing of 17 year old Nabra Hassanen is on my mind. Not only was she killed—brutally beaten with a baseball bat—but it is thought that she was raped, too. Twice. During Ramadan. By an undocumented Latino from El Salvador.

It is said to be a case of “road rage.” I am having a difficult time believing this. Maybe this man was drunk. Maybe he was angry at his partner. Maybe it was a hate crime. Maybe we’ll never know the whole truth.

What matters, however, is that Nabra—a young woman, black, and a Muslim—was killed. Do not tell me, or anyone, that these three aspects were not factors in her death. That her death had nothing to do with her being a person of color. Or that her death had nothing to do with her wearing an identifying, religious headscarf. Or that her death had nothing to do with misogyny. Because it did. All of it did. Continue reading “In This Fractured World, I Will Not Remain Silent by Karen Leslie Hernandez”

Outraged? Yes, I Am! by Karen Leslie Hernandez

karen hernandezReaders, please note: this post includes accounts of rape and violence agianst women and quotes distrubing statements of assault made by Donald Trump. These are easily identifiable by the use of italics or as indented, quoted text. 

Of course I’m outraged.

I had someone the other day post on my Facebook wall that I’m “angry.” And I have also been told lately that because Donald Trump won and I didn’t, “get my way,” I should just, “get over it.”

What I really wish I could say to these folks is … “Of course I’m outraged, but I am not sure if I am more outraged that you can’t see past your privilege, or, that you think I am angry because Hillary didn’t win.”

Newsflash. I would be ecstatic if George Bush Jr., were in office again. Or, if Sarah Palin had run, and won. This has nothing to do with being a “sore loser” or not “getting my way.” This has to do with the fact that our POTUS is a sexist, misogynistic, racist human being. Continue reading “Outraged? Yes, I Am! by Karen Leslie Hernandez”

Why Is The Abuser Still Among Us? by Vanessa Rivera de la Fuente

They say that men cannot control themselves.

So, when they see a woman, the body overcomes the mind. If you have to rape, you rape. I have heard it many times, the same argument to justify cheating. “I am a man, I can’t control it, I HAD to do it, I DID NOT KNOW what I was doing”. Sure, they can control themselves. Sure, they DO KNOW what they are doing. Because they control themselves with other men. They can and know how to maintain alliances with other men so none of them will reveal their secrets. Secrets called women abuse. They are so updated in what they do, that if you call their machismo out, they organize a cold strategy to silence you. They will have a Masters in mind games and gaslighting to leave you full of bumps without touching you, and you will have to put up with the wall of silence from his friends defending the abuser. Continue reading “Why Is The Abuser Still Among Us? by Vanessa Rivera de la Fuente”

What Traci West Taught Me about Dominant and Excluded Voices by Elise M. Edwards

Elise EdwardsIn my previous post, I mentioned a book I am writing about how theological and ethical considerations in architectural design can define good architecture.  In that post and in ones to follow, I am acknowledging the feminists and womanists and mujeristas who have influenced me while also opening up the dialogue to the feminists in this community who continue to inspire and guide me to do my best work.

But today, instead of talking about creativity or architecture, I want to discuss how I arrived at the conviction that community decisions about how we ought to live—whether those are decisions about laws, institutional policies, religious practices or architectural buildings—need to include the voices of the diverse people they directly and indirectly influence. Continue reading “What Traci West Taught Me about Dominant and Excluded Voices by Elise M. Edwards”

Wisdom Fiction (Part 2) by Elise M. Edwards

Elise Edwards“There are years that ask questions and years that answer.” from Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

In my previous two posts, I’ve discussed the wisdom that can be found in black women’s literature. Continuing this series, I’m sharing a statement from the most well-known novel written by Zora Neale Hurston. Hurston was an American novelist, folklorist, anthropologist, and cultural critic whose work was first published in the 1920s-1940s. Their Eyes Were Watching God was published in 1937 and has since been reissued and adapted into film.

“There are years that ask questions and years that answer.” This quote is one that has circled around my mind every New Year and every birthday for many years. These times of year are when I’m likely to reflect on the previous year and wonder what has come from it.

Continue reading “Wisdom Fiction (Part 2) by Elise M. Edwards”

E Pluribus Unum and The Unrecognized Black Goddess of Rome by Stuart Dean

Stuart WordPress photoE pluribus unum (‘EPU’), which first began to be used by the U.S. in the 18th century, comes from a poem entitled Moretum that until well into the 19th century was generally attributed to Vergil.  During those centuries Latin would have been studied from what was the equivalent of today’s elementary school through at least high school.  Because Vergil is to the study of Latin what Shakespeare is to the study of English, Moretum would have been read by anyone lucky enough to receive formal education in those centuries–mostly boys–including the white sons of slave owners.

Those boys, however, would have been motivated not just to read, but to memorize Moretum.  That is because Moretum, through a variety of clues, encourages allegorical interpretations, one of which is that it celebrates the sexual intercourse of a single white farmer and his sole companion, his black female slave.  Such an interpretation requires ignoring the clues that the author thinks of such sex as rape (as anyone other than a male slave owner would); those clues lead me to think the author may have been a woman.

Illustration of Moertum (1558 Edition of Vergil's works)

Illustration of Moretum from a 1558 edition of the works of Vergil available here.

Continue reading “E Pluribus Unum and The Unrecognized Black Goddess of Rome by Stuart Dean”

What’s Wrong with this Picture? by Elise M. Edwards

Elise EdwardsOn Monday, the picture was on my Facebook feed again: The picture of a girl lying face down in the grass under a police officer pressing his knee in her back. It was from the video of an African-American teenager being pinned to the ground by Eric Casebolt, the police officer in McKinney, Texas who was responding to calls about a pool party. When I saw the picture this time, it was in a screenshot with these words below it:

“Funny how a 14 year old bikini-clad black girl being publicly assaulted by an adult male does not accrue mainstream feminist outrage.” – Yohanna

The screenshot was taken of a post to Yohanna’s Twitter account (@maarnayeri). I don’t know her, but she troubled me.

If you haven’t seen the images we’re talking about, you can view the video here with a description of what is concurring or below from YouTube. I was reluctant to watch the video. It seems voyeuristic to view this young woman’s suffering and screaming. And, if I am honest with myself, it also seems useless. Viewing this from my computer screen, I’m in no position to help her. I hear her cries and it make me cry too. But I can’t push him off of her. When other teens tried to come to her defense, Casebolt pulled a gun on them and chased them. I don’t even have the power to get him fired from his position of authority immediately. No, we must have the investigations and inquiries and due process that seems so indiscriminately afforded to the privileged. Casebolt was put on administrative leave on Friday, and on Tuesday June 9, he resigned.

So how should I respond?

I had a conversation with one of my closest friends a couple days ago that provoked me to reflect on what to do when I’m conflicted about how to respond. Her background is in acting and theatre, and now she is a pastor and artistic director of a Christian church and arts initiative who believes in supporting arts, imagination and creativity. In our conversation about discerning the next steps in our lives, she was reminded of a book by Samuel Wells that proposes “theatrical improvisation as a model for Christian ethics.” That reminded me of books I’ve read that talk about musical improvisation or call-and-response as model for living, and some pieces I’ve written about that. Inspired by ethicists and theologians including Emilie M. Townes and H. Richard Niebuhr, I believe that to answer the question of how I should respond, I must first answer ‘What’s going on?” An improvised response or a fitting response is the response to what is already occurring. We must look at the situation critically to respond appropriately.

What’s going on in this video and the controversy surrounding it? I am certainly not an impartial or all-knowing observer, but here’s what I see:

  • A white man forcibly throws an unarmed, African-American teenager to the ground yelling “On your face!” We can see that she is unarmed because she is wearing a bikini.
  • The man is a police officer. He is upset that his authority is being challenged. Other officers are present and seem to be asking questions, but the violent one seems out of control and frantic, running around and yelling. He escalates the situation when he throws the girl to the sidewalk, which causes an outcry in the crowd.
  • As the video went viral, there were many protests and online statements against this violent event, but also statements of support for the officer. And sadly, I agree with Yohanna’s assessment. I may have missed it (and I hope I did), but I didn’t see a broad, mainstream feminist response against this violence.

I’m a feminist. I’m a black feminist. I’m a Christian feminist. I may not be a mainstream feminist (depending on your definition), but I’ll express my outrage anyway. It is sickening to watch his treatment of this teenage girl. This man’s mistreatment of a young black girl’s body is chilling. It is wrong and he should be held accountable for it.

I don’t think outrage is enough. But outrage does express that our moral sensibilities have been awakened and that we recognize that something profoundly wrong has occurred. In the face of comments that say she deserved this treatment, we as feminists must insist on the officer’s wrongdoing. “She had it coming.” “She incited him.” As feminists, we know that these kinds of statements are used in cases of rape and intimate partner violence to explain away violent actions and to shift the guilt from perpetrator to victim. The backlash against feminists and others who oppose these explanations argues that we ignore the victim’s responsibility or agency.

Bloggers and social media users know all too well the horrific statements that often appear in the comments section of online posts, videos, and articles. One comment I saw about the McKinney video says that the girl was “sassing back” at the police and that “if she wants to talk like adult then she’s going to be treated like an adult.” This kind of justification makes my blood boil! Sassing back is speaking up and saying something to an authority figure when you are expected to be silent.  While the term sassing back doesn’t exclusively apply to women and girls, it is nonetheless a phrase with gendered connotations. How many boys are called “sassy”? Is it that no one had the right to say anything to this officer running around yelling at black teen boys to sit on the ground, or is it that this black female should have kept quiet? Regardless, throwing an unarmed person to the sidewalk for supposedly saying something disrespectful is not justifiable behavior to adults or children.

I wish I knew more about what’s going on and how to respond to the violence I see in the world. I know these perennial questions subvert easy answers. I only have a partial response. I am responding with outrage and questioning and take this to my feminist community and into my spiritual practice. “What’s going on?” and “How should I respond?” are questions I ask God. I pray for justice. I pray for God’s presence in the outrage and in the investigations, and in the lives of those children who were violated.

Elise M. Edwards, PhD is a Lecturer in Christian Ethics at Baylor University and a graduate of Claremont Graduate University. She is also a registered architect in the State of Florida. Her interdisciplinary work examines issues of civic engagement and how beliefs and commitments are expressed publicly. As a black feminist, she primarily focuses on cultural expressions by, for, and about women and marginalized communities. Follow her on twitter, google+ or academia.edu.

The Religiosity of Silence by John Erickson

In a repetitive culture of abuse and silence, is it really shocking to find out that an individual who preached such hate and discontent for others actually perpetuated other forms of heinous abuse against others?

John Erickson, sports, coming out.In 2013, I wrote an article about the then latest reality TV scandal featuring A&E’s Duck Dynasty’s Phil Robertson and his rampant foot-in-mouth disease that caused him to express, in the pages of GQ, his true distaste for the LGBT community and specifically for the sexual proclivities of gay men.

Now, two years later in another reality TV show, TLC’s ’19 Kids and Counting’, it isn’t star Josh Duggar’s anti-LGBT statements getting him into trouble but rather his sexual assault and molestation of 5 girls, including two of his sisters. However, while the Internet explodes with attacks against Josh Duggar and his Quiverfull background, it is vital to remember that the silence that he and his family inflicted upon his victims since 2006 has not only been ongoing since then but is also being reemphasized today with each keystroke focusing on the assailant rather than the victims. Continue reading “The Religiosity of Silence by John Erickson”

The Religion of My Rape by Jennifer Zobair

painted hands, Jennifer Zobair
Photo Credit: Brian Ziska

Whenever the epidemic of rape in Egypt makes the news, I am destined to think of Joyce Carol Oates.

Last summer, the author took to twitter to question whether Islam was responsible for the widespread incidence of sexual assault in Egypt, an argument people continue to make today. As a Muslim woman, I desperately wanted to respond to Ms. Oates’ tweets. I held my cursor over the “reply” button countless times. But I’ve been silent about the things I would have said, about why I follow Dennis Rodman on twitter, and why Pearl Jam is my favorite band, and how my heart shattered for women in Syria who felt like they had to be silent, too.

I have been silent. Continue reading “The Religion of My Rape by Jennifer Zobair”

Abuse Does Not Have “Fifty Shades of Grey” by Michele Stopera Freyhauf

WARNING: This article or pages it links to contain information about domestic abuse and sexual violence which may be triggering to survivors.


Freyhauf, Durham, Hahn Loeser, John CarrollNo matter what you call it abuse is abuse. This is highlighted in the popular book and now movie Fifty Shades of Grey. Because of the stir this book caused, I delved into the first book and my initial reaction was that of repulsion and wonderment. How could a woman let a man control her like that? Why would she let him do things like that to her and continue to come back to him? Why is this book so popular?

Are women sexually repressed in a way that their own sexual experiences are routine and boring (the book is full of BDSM) or they have never orgasmed (every time they have intercourse, Anastasia is guaranteed to orgasm)? Why do we find it okay to label body parts as “love boxes” or “considerable length” or the multitude of references to a man’s penis or woman’s vagina that is meant to sound sexy or romantic? Why does he announce “I am going to f*** you now” every single time they have intercourse? Can’t the reader figure out what is going on without making this announcement?

However, after I got beyond my initial reaction (or shock), I took a step back and became upset and outraged.  In essence, the overall issue with the book can be summed up in one word: control. Some women argue that the awkward doe-eyed virgin journalist exercises control over the sexually deviantPicture from fanpop.com

Picture from fanpop.com

billionaire that keeps him coming back to her – I disagree. I see control exercised by the sexually deviant man over a woman enamored by him in such a way that is sexually, physically, and psychologically exploitative and abusive. Yes – I understand this is fiction, but this type of writing causes immense problems.

In a culture that embraces “Blurred Lines,” money and power, and “the bad boy persona,” this storyline fuels the fodders of the fire with a sensationalism that plays on sexual fantasies and/or those wishing prince charming will sweep them away. One needs to look no further than “The Bachelor” or Bret Michaels’ “Rock of Love” television shows that promote the exploitation of women’s desires to be with the rich handsome man at any cost to self and dignity. In fact, an article posted about the movie stated that if Christian Grey was not a billionaire and behaved in the same way, he would be arrested and labeled a sex offender. So again, is the message we want to send to our daughters, nieces, and friends is that the rich can do whatever they want and you should let him? I think not.

Continue reading “Abuse Does Not Have “Fifty Shades of Grey” by Michele Stopera Freyhauf”

Painting Women from Judges – Part 1: Jephthah’s Reflective Daughter by Melinda Bielas

Melinda BielasThe story of Jephthah’s daughter – found in the Hebrew Bible, Judges 11:29-40 – is a difficult story to read. The first time I read it, I was in my Christian high school Bible class and I could not understand why our teacher did not address the violence done by a father to his daughter. In my experience, Christians dismiss much of the violence done to women in the Hebrew Bible as evidence that ancient fathers, brothers, and husbands really did not care for their daughters, sisters, and wives. Since today men love the women in their lives, the ancient problem is no longer an issue, and we can continue with more pressing issues – or so the unspoken logic goes.

However, some feminist scholars – such as myself and Dr. Tammi Schnider – argue that it was common for fathers to love their daughters in the Hebrew Bible, and Jephthah is no exception. His daughter is his only relative in the text, and presumably the only person impatiently waiting for him to return from the war he led. Yet, because of the vow he makes to the deity – a vow the deity does not request or acknowledge – he sacrifices his only loved one. Why would he make such a vow? Why would his daughter go along with it? These are two of the questions I could not help but yell as I struggled with the text. Continue reading “Painting Women from Judges – Part 1: Jephthah’s Reflective Daughter by Melinda Bielas”

Breaking The Silence About Sexual Violence by Vanessa Rivera de la Fuente

Vanessa Rivera de la Fuente. Rape CultureMy last article for Feminism and Religion had a very brief reference to an episode of sexual violence; since its publication I have received emails from women who decided to tell me their experiences with rape and abuse.

I am deeply grateful, ladies. I read each one of your stories. I am honored by the trust you placed in me to open your heart and let me go in to see your sorrow and hopes. My soul found solidarity in your words and I recognized myself in your struggle with physical and emotional scars, with your courage to pick up the pieces and coming back from the ashes to pursue justice, inner peace and build new self confidence.

Breaking the silence is not easy. We live in a culture where “women are prettier the more they remain quiet.” We’re taught rather to accept violence without complaints; if we talk, we will be blamed and vilified, isolated, ashamed or mocked. Rape is frequent topic of jokes and the medicine many males recommend for disciplining women who don’t behave “as a woman should.” Continue reading “Breaking The Silence About Sexual Violence by Vanessa Rivera de la Fuente”

Safety and Vulnerability in a Dangerous and Fertile World: A Meditation on Incarnation

Marcia headshotFeeling safe again is often the healing and elusive aspiration of a person like me.

I have been living with the deep and cellular residuum of sexual trauma for most of my life—over thirty of my going-on forty-six years.

For many years, the grief and shame of losing my innocence cultivated an intense orientation to life’s doing. Safety for me back then was activity, noise, frenetic schedules, and a constant soundtrack to my life that meant I never had to be quiet with myself. Safety was in the predictable metrics of success that I could use to measure my self worth. I never had to stop and admit that I didn’t feel safe, ever.

I got a lot done all those frenetic years and my diligent efforts were affirmed with everything from scholarships to awards to pay raises.

But, trauma does not allow itself to be ignored. It demands attention. Its cellular ghosts haunt their host. They must be acknowledged, sometimes cast out, sometimes befriended, other times adapted or transformed. My trauma is tethered to the violence of a dangerous world, a world that knows no boundaries when it comes to annihilating innocence.

How can I be safe in this kind of world? How can any of us? Continue reading “Safety and Vulnerability in a Dangerous and Fertile World: A Meditation on Incarnation”

On Believability, Oppression and Ferguson by Sara Frykenberg

Sara FrykenbergLast week, Amina Wadud wrote an important post,Justice for Mike Brown,” discussing Mike Brown’s death in light of Brown vs. The Board of Education, Plessy vs. Ferguson and the injustice faced by African American Communities, particularly in the US legal/ criminal justice system. She highlights the dehumanizing practices that lead us to criminalize black bodies, beginning in childhood.

Considering her post and many, many other articles and news reports over the past several months, and particularly this last week, since the Grand Jury failed to indict Darren Wilson, I felt compelled to speak about a certain quality of kyriarchal oppression: that of rendering the oppressed “unbelievable.” I will not recount the details of the case here (please see the link above for links to court documents through NPR), nor will I try to “speak for” African American communities– nor can I. However, I think it is important that we bloggers and readers at feminismandreligion.com continue to consider the recent verdict and the critical justice issues it raises, as well as remember the tragedy of Mike Brown’s death, and so many men and women like him.

Actor and activist Jessie Williams, who many know from the popular TV show Grey’s Anatomy, gave a passionate and salient interview on CNN’s “State of the Union,” back in August after Michael Brown was killed. You can watch most of the interview with Williams, LZ Granderson and Tara Wall here; you can watch here for the clip I mention below.  Like Wadud, he too discusses the criminalization of black bodies, drawing from the everyday experience of Black men in the United States to make his case. At the end of the interview, Williams powerfully asserts, “We’re not making this up.” Continue reading “On Believability, Oppression and Ferguson by Sara Frykenberg”

Domestic Violence: The Sin that Sin Created by Kelly Brown Douglas

Rev.-Dr.-Kelly-Brown-Douglas - Version 2In these last several weeks, the horror that one out of four women will encounter domestic violence- sometimes referred to as “intimate partner” violence- in their life time has come to the national forefront. Indeed, women are more likely than men to be killed by their “intimate partner:” one in three women who is a victim of homicide is killed by an intimate partner. While sixty percent of domestic violence incidents occur in the home, this is not where domestic violence begins. It is the perhaps inevitable result of a culture of violence against women. It is the violence that violence creates.

This is a culture of violence in which women’s work continues to be grossly undervalued. One third of all women are living in or near poverty, what has been described as “the brink of poverty.” Two-thirds of minimum wage workers are women. The average white woman is paid 77 cents for every dollar her male counterpart man makes; for African American women it is 64 cents and Hispanic women 55 cents for every dollar made by white men. Women devote more than double the hours as men to “unpaid interactive children care.” Women over 65 “are twice as likely as men of the same age” to live in poverty—primarily because they are full or part-time caregivers. A 2013 “State of the World’s Mothers Report” ranked the United States 30th of the 30 best countries in the world to be a mother, based on indicators such as economic status, political opportunities and universal health care. And what this report makes most clear is that the status of children reflects the status of their mothers. This means that at least 28 million children are living in poverty in the United States.

As for physical violence, one in four college aged women experiences an attemptted or actual date rape. Forty-two percent of women who have been date raped consider suicide. In the Shriver Report, Sister Joan Chittister suggests that in the United States, “rapes in military and rapes on college campuses go unpunished because ‘boys will be boys,’ and winning wars and football games are more important than protecting the integrity of the women who are victims of rape.” These statistics represent nothing less than systemic and cultural violence against women and their children.[i] And, such violence is a sin. Continue reading “Domestic Violence: The Sin that Sin Created by Kelly Brown Douglas”

We Are All Jennifer Lawrence by Martha Cecilia Ovadia

Martha Cecilia OvadiaI don’t want to be an angry feminist.

I don’t want to be angry.

I’m angry.

I’m angry a lot.

I’m sad more often than I am angry.

The sadness that I speak of runs deep.

I had an entire blog ready to go for posting this week, but as news broke of Jennifer Lawrence’s stolen pictures, I couldn’t bring myself not to speak up.

If you have not heard yet, hackers broke into Jennifer Lawrence’s personal accounts and uploaded quite a stash of private photos on to the internet. They are currently threatening to upload stolen videos as well.  You can find the story chronicled here. I’ve decided to link to a feminist website that is withholding the photos because, trust me, you do NOT want to wade the waters of what is out there in regards to this story. It is rage inducing. Continue reading “We Are All Jennifer Lawrence by Martha Cecilia Ovadia”

Women are like countries: both need to fight hard for independence by Oxana Poberejnaia

oxanaRita M. Gross in her book Buddhism After Patriarchy presents portraits of prominent women from Buddhist history. Some stories are extraordinary for the brutal details they contain. For example, Yeshe Tsogyel was raped, kidnapped and beaten by her suitors to the point that her back was a bloody pulp. She subsequently escaped to meditate in a cave.

In a patriarchal society, religious fervour is not recommended for women. Submission and obedience – yes. The life of an ascetic, a wanderer or a hermit – no. A son is relatively free to pursue religious activities (especially if he is one of the younger children and the issue of inheritance is sorted out). However, all daughters are better off tucked into a marriage. Supporting your husband and sons on their spiritual path – yes. Independent striving away from family life – no. Continue reading “Women are like countries: both need to fight hard for independence by Oxana Poberejnaia”

#YesAllWomen, the Darwin Debate, and the God Complex by John Erickson

#YesAllWomen proved that although not all men commit horrible crimes against women, the men that often get the headlines and create the most controversy are the ones that need to be watched out for.

John EricksonThe one thing I typically will choose to do on the rare occasion that I’m able to sit down and relax is to watch a documentary.  While some people may go to the gym, read a book, or hang with friends, I typically choose to stay in, nestle up on my couch, and learn.  While on my last bout of relaxation, I chose to watch the HBO documentary Questioning Darwin. Although it offers very little new insight into the evolution vs. creationism debate, it does offer an interesting new way to look at the recent social media hashtag war feminists, allies, and supporters found themselves in over the #YesAllWomen movement that took the world by storm.


Now, before I discuss #YesAllWomen, I have to admit that I did not enter into the safe space women created for themselves to tell tales of the horrible things they have and have had to face on a daily basis.  I firmly believe that men should not have entered into the digital space Continue reading “#YesAllWomen, the Darwin Debate, and the God Complex by John Erickson”


carol christWhen I was in high school I heard a story about a girl who got drunk at a party after a football game and had sex with more than one of the football players. The story was told at the expense of the girl, who was categorized as “easy” and “cheap.” The idea that gang rape might have occurred was not something that either the teller or I might have been capable of considering, for these words and the reality to which they point were not part of our vocabulary.

However, the fact that I remember this story decades later suggests that even then something did not “sit right” with me about the way it was told. The image of the girl, who was cute and had curly long light brown hair still fleets through my memory.

Yesterday I read that the following universities are under investigation for possible violation of Title IX Civil Rights protections for failure to investigate charges of rape on college campuses. Continue reading “RAPE IS A NATIONAL CRISIS by Carol P. Christ”

Seriously?! Let’s Blame Feminism for the Creation of a “Wimpy” Nation by Michele Stopera Freyhauf

FreyhaufIt is so easy to blame feminism for the ills of the world – mainly because of continued misconceptions and misunderstandings about the definition or meaning of feminism. Feminism is responsible for poverty, bad leadership, wars, the polar vortex, the list goes on. Feminism is still considered a derogatory term that serves to incite prejudice against those who label themselves as one.  In fact, negative connotations surrounding feminism are exacerbated in today’s culture, especially in the media.  Fox News seems to be the poster child of “femiphobia” – a term coined by Stephen Ducat and defined as “wanting to repress every man’s feminine side and demonize the feminine and gay wherever we see them.” Elisabeth Hasselbeck and Nick Adams, in a recent interview, illustrate this femiphobic viewpoint by blaming feminism for raising a culture of “wimps” and “wussies” and thus compromising the U. S.’s national security and weakening its global presence.  In other words, feminism is to blame for the problems of the world.

According to Adams, men around the world are no longer allowed to be “manly” and that this phenomenon is a “dangerous” problem:

American men are of course very susceptible to it. It’s really important particularly in America given the leadership role that America has in the world that American men be allowed to be men.

What does in mean to be a man and how is Adams defining that stereotype? While I am aware of the discussion of gender identity and roles even gendered stereotypes, this post is not about what those roles mean.  Rather, for this point of discussion, I want to address the issue of masculinity, feminism, and what it means to be a “wimp” as portrayed by popular media.

Original photo: http://poasterchild.deviantart.com/art/Feminism-Not-406854334
Original photo: http://poasterchild.deviantart.com/art/Feminism-Not-406854334

With that caveat in mind, I ask the following questions:

  • Is the author suggesting a move to a “hypermasculinity”?
  • Is Adams identifying masculinity with aggression and violence in a world where feminists and perhaps all women are demonized?

In a society dominated by the “alpha male” character trait,male  honor and pride are paramount. Is Fox News telling men to replace so-called passive behavior with pride, abrasiveness, authoritarianism, and arrogance–in such a world if where women are demonized, then assaultand rape will follow.  The call for “real men” or “hyper-masculinity” therefore provides a real potential to move us further towards a misogynistic rape culture of violence–in the direction of barbarianism.

Continue reading “Seriously?! Let’s Blame Feminism for the Creation of a “Wimpy” Nation by Michele Stopera Freyhauf”

“Enlightened Sexism” and The Media: The Cultural Attack on Feminism by Michele Stopera Freyhauf

Freyhauf, Feminism, Religion, Durham, Old Testament, Blogger, Bible, Gender, Violence, Ursuline, John CarrollWhat is a feminist mother of four daughters to do these days?  Look at our media and how girls and women are portrayed to our daughters, teens, and young adults. Then take a look at how media portrays the face of feminism, promoting every negative stereotype out there.  As I scroll through the magazines, listen to songs on the radio, and watch the programming targeted at girls in junior high and up, I cannot help but ask the question – Is the media trying to destroy feminism?

While this introduction might sound drastic, much truth lies behind the questions.  One merely needs to look around and watch former Disney Star, Miley Cyrus, twerk and make lewd gestures with a foam finger while grinding against a man, almost twice her age, as he sings about the blurred lines of sexual consent. When I saw the news stories and yes, watched the video, I was utterly mortified and stunned.  Gloria Steinem, in a statement that seems to condone this behavior stated that Cyrus’ performance (actions) is not a new phenomenon, but a product of American culture.  Instead of looking at it through the lens of degradation and influence, she defended the young star by saying:

 “I wish we didn’t have to be nude to get noticed. But given the game as it exists, women make decisions.  For instance, the Miss America contest… the single greatest source of scholarship money for women in the United States.  If a contest based only on appearance was the single greatest source of scholarship money for men, then we would be saying ‘this is why China wins.’ You know?  But that’s the way culture is.  I think that we need to change culture, not blame the people that are playing the game that exists.”

When Cyrus’ actions are boiled down to being “nude to get noticed,”  and we accept this behavior by merely chalking her performance up to  culture – isn’t it time to change culture?  Continue reading ““Enlightened Sexism” and The Media: The Cultural Attack on Feminism by Michele Stopera Freyhauf”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“The Invisible War” Goes On by Marie Fortune

Marie FortuneThe invisible war of sexual assault of female and male military personnel by their fellow soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines continues even as the U.S. Senate holds hearings and presses for substantive changes in the way cases of sexual assault are handled. The Academy Award nominated documentary tells the story of survivors of rape and of an institution long on rhetoric and short on change.

In 2012, there were 26,000 reported rapes in the military which is a 35% increase over the previous year. Since 1991, it is estimated that 500,000 women have been raped in the U.S. military. Half a million. At least 20% of women who serve have been assaulted while serving.  This gives new meaning to “friendly fire.” One commentator compares it to incest: a military unit has a family dimension. You should be able to trust the members of your unit to have your back and your commander to protect you as needed. Continue reading ““The Invisible War” Goes On by Marie Fortune”

Extending Compassion and Vegetarianism by Xochitl Alvizo

“I did not know to recognize you as individuals when I bought you, but I know to recognize you as individuals now…”

I had been a vegetarian, and sometimes pescatarian, for more than 10 years before becoming vegan. Despite the length of my vegetarianism, in all that time I had not been inclined to go vegan. First, I really didn’t know too much about veganism and only began meeting a few vegans about five or six years ago here in Boston, none of whom had shared a compelling enough reason for their choice (at least not compelling to me). Further, I had no imagination for life without cheese or Cherry Garcia ice cream(!), and so I happily continued with my vegetarian ways. Then enters Carol Adams…

In a teleconference that WATER had with Carol Adams on March 14, 2012  (Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual), the beauty of her veganism moved me to a new understanding of my food choices. I listened to the WATER audio recording some months after the actual event (these teleconference audio recordings are a great resource you should all access), and although I had been familiar with some of her work and had heard her speak before, I had not heard her talk about the compassion element of veganism. Her emphasis on increasing compassion, which I witnessed in action during her conversation with one of the listeners, was what moved me to my new practice. Continue reading “Extending Compassion and Vegetarianism by Xochitl Alvizo”

Rape Culture and Abstinence Only Education by Gina Messina-Dysert

Gina Messina-Dysert profileRape culture, as has been noted on Feminism and Religion in multiple articles (see Carol Christ’s post this week), permeates every aspect of our society, every aspect of our lives.  Something that I believe warrants serious attention is Elizabeth Smart’s recent comment about abstinence only education.  In her talk at John Hopkins University about her own harrowing ordeal, she well demonstrates the many ways rape culture plays itself out in our society and also shares why we must continue to explore options beyond abstinence only education.

As you may recall, Elizabeth Smart’s name became well known across the US when she was abducted at the age of 14 and then found alive 9 months later.  During her captivity Smart was forced into a polygamous marriage and repeatedly raped (rape culture).  When she was found walking down the street with her captors, many wondered why she hadn’t tried to escape or ask for help (rape culture).  According to Smart, the question she is asked most often is “Why didn’t you run? Why didn’t you scream?” (rape culture).  Smart responded to that question during her talk and her answer included abstinence only education (rape culture). Continue reading “Rape Culture and Abstinence Only Education by Gina Messina-Dysert”


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”

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