From the Archives: No Hope, No Problem: Reflections on Pesach, Time and Paradox.

Author’s note: This post was originally published on April 19, 2019.

In “Time Telling in Feminist Theory,” Rita Felski suggests that there are four main ways feminists discuss and use time: redemption, regression, repetition and rupture.  They are aptly named as they behave similar to their labels.  Redemption is the linear march of time, hopefully progressing step by step towards a redeemed, or at least better, future even if sometimes things get momentarily worse.  Regression is the want to go back in time or at least return to idyllic and/or imagined pasts: to matriarchy or to a time before patriarchy’s violent arrival.  Repetition is a focus on the cyclical nature of time in bodies, in daily chores, in seasons and so on. Rupture posits a break in time in a way what was before no longer makes sense or doesn’t exist.   Think utopia or dystopia.

Continue reading “From the Archives: No Hope, No Problem: Reflections on Pesach, Time and Paradox.”

Mother-Love: A Review of Rosemary Daniell’s THE MURDEROUS SKY: POEMS OF MADNESS AND MERCY by Joyce Zonana

She’s been called a “national treasure” by Bruce Feiler and lauded by Erica Jong as “one of the women by whom our age will be known in times to come” … And yet Rosemary Daniell is not as well-known as she deserves to be–perhaps because she is a fiercely feminist Southern woman.


She’s been called a “national treasure” by Bruce Feiler and lauded by Erica Jong as “one of the women by whom our age will be known in times to come.” The author of three books of poetry, a novel, several memoirs, and several books of nonfiction, she is the founder of the revolutionary “Zona Rosa” writing workshops and retreats that have helped hundreds of participants—mostly women—become published authors.  For many years she led writing workshops in women’s prisons in Georgia and Wyoming, and served as program director for Georgia’s Poetry in the Schools. Her work has been featured in numerous magazines and newspapers. And yet Rosemary Daniell is not as well-known as she deserves to be—perhaps because she is a fiercely feminist Southern woman who unabashedly celebrates her own sexuality while also bringing her formidable intellect, wit, charm, and compassion to bear on her approach to writing.

Continue reading “Mother-Love: A Review of Rosemary Daniell’s THE MURDEROUS SKY: POEMS OF MADNESS AND MERCY by Joyce Zonana”

Redemptive Forgetfulness by Marcia Mount Shoop

MMS Headshot 2015Have you forgotten yet? Have you forgotten what it felt like to go about your life pre-pandemic?

My brain has switched to a different filter system. If I watch a movie or see an image from the pre-pandemic world, the first thing I notice is that people are standing too close to each other. Or I notice that they are touching each other. People are supposed to be in proximity to each other only in the boxes of Zoom or in the confines of their home or in a hospital where the staff has on protective equipment. That pandemic filter overlays itself onto everything now, even memories.

It’s hard to access the joy of greeting someone with a hug or handshake, because those things are something we must tell our bodies not to do. We have to resist that urge. We have to rewire our impulses. There are tiny threads of shared trauma in it all—how will we ever feel like we can be together again and not be afraid? Continue reading “Redemptive Forgetfulness by Marcia Mount Shoop”

Gentle Moments in a Violent World by Marcia Mount Shoop

mms headshot 2015“Be gentle with yourself.”

It may be some of the most redemptive guidance I have ever received.  And I share that invitation daily with people in painful situations.

“Be gentle with yourself.”

In a world seemingly hell bent on self-destruction, being gentle even for a moment is a radical act of resistance. A moment of tenderness. A moment of trust. A moment of attentiveness to need.

But really, what good does gentleness do in a world as brutal as ours can be?  How does being gentle provide any kind of answer to the assault of being commodified or objectified or betrayed or assaulted or oppressed or erased or abused or discarded or exploited? Continue reading “Gentle Moments in a Violent World by Marcia Mount Shoop”

Vayikra: No Temple Required by Ivy Helman

29662350_10155723099993089_8391051315166448776_oThis week’s Torah portion is Vayikra (Leviticus 1:1 – 5:26).  Vayikra is essentially one long discourse on animal sacrifice with an occasional grain or oil offering included.  This killing of animals, their subsequent burning and the shared eating of their flesh was the predominate way deities were worshipped in ancient Canaan.  It was believed that the smell of cooking meat appeased the gods and most importantly stifled their anger. It is no wonder then that the ancient Israelites so integrated within the surrounding culture adopted similar methods of worship.

Yet, there was always present within Israelite society a minority opinion that the deity didn’t desire sacrifice.  The prophets, who strived to create the most just society possible, often said that sacrifice had little effect.  Sometimes they even suggested that the divine has never requested sacrifices, such as in Jeremiah 7:22 which says, For neither did I speak with your forefathers nor did I command them on the day I brought them out of the land of Egypt, concerning a burnt offering or a sacrifice.”  Yet, most of the time, the prophets argue that what is most important is how one behaves and the type of society the Israelites create more so than the offering of sacrifices.  Prime examples of this line of thinking are the prophet Amos (5:14-15 and 21-24), Isaiah (1:11-17 and 27), Hosea (6:6), Micah (6:6-8) and Jeremiah (6:20).   Continue reading “Vayikra: No Temple Required by Ivy Helman”

Past Transgressions by Esther Nelson

Governor Ralph Northam, a Democrat in the state of Virginia, has many people calling for his resignation after a picture from a 1984 medical school yearbook surfaced showing what some people assert to be Northam wearing blackface or a KKK costume.  (Northam insists he is neither one of the people in the photograph and he, as I write this, vows to fulfill his term in office.) This is a link to the recent firestorm along with other people in the public eye who have been censored due to their racial insensitivity. 

Recently I posted an essay on this blog (FAR) titled, “All Are Welcome—Even Tom.”  One of the broad questions I raise in the piece dealing with sexual assault surrounds our shared human dignity.  “If we are all one (as many people assert), do we not hurt and diminish our own selves when we seek revenge or become embittered instead of practicing compassion towards both parties—the one who has inflicted an injury as well as the one who has been injured? [Here is the link]. Continue reading “Past Transgressions by Esther Nelson”

Saving Joan of Arc by Natalie Weaver

I’m finished with my first semester as a studio arts major at Kent State University.  I am not sure whether I’ll be registering for a second one.  There were pros and cons about the experience, and I am not sure if one set outweighed the other. Regardless, I am on sabbatical this spring, have two books to complete, and figured I would do well not to be trekking back and forth in an hours worth of snow and ice over the next few months from my home to the school.  So, I am taking a semester off, and I have become one of those retention risks. I am grateful for the opportunity to reflect on the experience with only minimal consequence to my bank account and my (laughing) future in the arts.

It wasn’t a bad experience; it wasn’t a good one either, really.  I learned some things in drawing, but I am very much on the fence about my experience in sculpture.  For starters, I imagined playing with clay and making pinch pots while some Swayzesque spirit from beyond rubbed my shoulders.  Instead, I was more Jessica Beal with a welding mask, except, instead of wearing a swanky black leotard and off-the-shoulder-slouch-dance tunic, I was wearing ugly jeans and steal-toed shoes under the green welding suit that had half-dollar size holes in it.  The protective gear only partially worked; I was scared of the tools after a classmate almost lost a finger; and the top of my hair went up in smoke when a spark shot under my ill-fitting Vader hat on week two.  I put it out quickly, fortunately.

Continue reading “Saving Joan of Arc by Natalie Weaver”

Agape: Inspiration and Word Made Flesh by Margot Van Sluytman

breathe me
compel my flesh to stir.
will new landscapes through
your pores.
dine upon my potent supplication.
peel the lonely longing from
your swelling desire.
partake of flaming majesty, while
speaking: yes, over and over and
over again, rising and falling in
love’s newly remembered caress.
breathe me in.
breathe me out. Continue reading “Agape: Inspiration and Word Made Flesh by Margot Van Sluytman”

Elegy for An Old Life Gone: A Feminist Says Goodbye to Football by Marcia Mount Shoop

MMS Headshot 2015

I married into your strange cadence
A drumbeat that never felt natural
All consuming was your intention
But I protected pieces of myself from your designs
And more pieces retrieved me
As you showed me your true colors
You were a ruthless, untrustworthy friend
You were a harsh, seductive suitor
You gave me just enough of what
I never dreamed of
To capture my attention
My intentions, all these years
You, an adored brother of the one I love
You, a superlative dissembler
And people love you for the mythic way you tell
A story
Yours, ours, theirs
I gave into parts of you, I found some contorted freedom there istock-football
Some iteration of voice
Some impulse to make the best of you
Laying you to rest is cumbersome, Continue reading “Elegy for An Old Life Gone: A Feminist Says Goodbye to Football by Marcia Mount Shoop”

Liberation Lessons for Pesach by Ivy Helman

Each year we read the story of our exodus from Egypt during the Pesach seder. The story is one of human liberation from oppression. Yet, most of the imagery we encounter, the drama of the story so to speak, involves nature: a river that saves a baby, a burning bush, the plagues, the re(e)d sea, the wilderness, lack of food and water and the promised land itself. What does this mean?

In general, it means that human liberation is intimately connected to the liberation of all of creation.  In particular, the exodus story can teach us many lessons about environmental justice.  I’m going to explore five of them here: do not manipulate nature, use water wisely, form a connection to the land, imagine G-d differently and treat humans, animals and the land well.

Continue reading “Liberation Lessons for Pesach by Ivy Helman”

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”

Forgiveness (is a two-way street) by amina wadud

Amina Wadud 2 I am Muslim, by choice, practice and vocation

I don’t know why this came to me as the discussion I want to have in blog form today, but here you go–

Imam al-Ghazzali (d. 1111) said that Allah (God) only stops forgiving when the believer stops asking for forgiveness.  This is the crux of the Islamic view of divine forgiveness.  Start with the fact that we have NO FALL story, because despite mis-conduct in the Garden, Adam and Eve ASKED for and were granted forgiveness.  Thus, they leave without the mark of some eternal “original sin.”  They live as we all do, here on earth, not as some punishment but because that is where they were intended to live in the first place.  The creation story in Islam describes human creation as per a primordial conversation between the Creator and the unseen creatures known as angels, when God says, “Indeed, I will create ON THE EARTH a khalifah (moral agent, vice-regent of God).”

Thus, the relationship between divine forgiveness and human sin or error is fixed in a dialectic where sin and error might be part and parcel of the human being but likewise forgiveness is part and parcel of the Divine Creator.  In fact, the language used is telling.  Taubah, which is also translated as forgiveness, means “returning to the original place/station.”  Our original place is at one with the Creator, and we are in that station in harmony with all of creation ~ a sort of cosmic bliss.  When we err, we fall away from our true nature and the nature of the entire universe so must return to realign ourselves with this cosmic harmony… and everything will be alright. Continue reading “Forgiveness (is a two-way street) by amina wadud”

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”

Tikvah v’hashamayim (Hope and the Heavens): A Jewish Perspective on Redemption by Ivy Helman.

headshotThe Torah is bursting with hopes over-fulfilled.  Abraham and Sarah hoped for a child and gave birth to a nation.  The Israelites hoped for freedom from slavery and eventually received an entire Promised Land.  We understand hope and, in so many ways, we live on it, as hope has sustained us for thousands of years.  Today, our hopes inspire our actions and motivate us to work for peace, justice and equality.   In Jewish terms, we call this goal or vision of a better world in the here-and-now: redemption.

Yet, redemption does not just appear out of thin air or because we wish it.  Redemption and the hope of it requires work and cooperation with the Source of All Life.  As Deuteronomy 30:19 says, “I have put before you life and death… [therefore] choose life…”  This cooperation could be a simple commitment to tikkun olam, repairing the world (some times translated as social justice).  For others, choosing life could mean more observant religious practice.  It could also be a combination of the two.  In the end, though, I think both hope and redemption require choosing life in some form or another.

Just as how we choose life depends on who we are, how we achieve this redeemed world depends on how we understand G-d’s redemptive power.  Some of us think redemption will come through the moshiach (a savior), Continue reading “Tikvah v’hashamayim (Hope and the Heavens): A Jewish Perspective on Redemption by Ivy Helman.”

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