“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”

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”

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”

Rape Culture, Sexual Violence, and Spiritual Healing by Gina Messina-Dysert

Gina Messina-Dysert profileRecently I had the great pleasure of presenting on the WATER Teleconference Series and dialoguing with women from around the world about how to promote healing in a rape culture. Likewise, in a previous post I discussed rape culture in the Church and its impact on victims of sexual violence and the greater community.  Within a rape culture, those who experience sexual victimization endure physical, emotional, and spiritual wounding. It is a victimization unlike any other, and one that we must continue to discuss in search of healing.

This topic is important to me for obvious reasons. As a woman, mother, and social justice activist, I am passionate about eradicating gender based violence.  This said, I also have direct experience with this brutality that plagues our society. Having worked with rape survivors for more than a decade, I have witnessed the suffering endured as a result of such violence.  My own mother died prematurely as a result of sexual and domestic violence; having come to learn of the horrors she lived through has greatly impacted my understanding of the deep spiritual wounding experienced due to our culture of shaming and blaming – our rape culture.

Han has become a key concept in the way I understand the suffering of the rape victim.  Continue reading “Rape Culture, Sexual Violence, and Spiritual Healing by Gina Messina-Dysert”

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”

What We’ve Learned from Steubenville by Gina Messina-Dysert

Gina Messina-Dysert profileThe nation has watched over these last several months as the rape case in Steubenville, Ohio has unfolded in the media.  On March 17, 2013 the verdict was announced and the two teenage boys accused of raping a 16 year old girl were found guilty on all counts.   Although the verdict was just, all other circumstances surrounding the case, including the sentence, support the existence of a rape culture.  What we have learned from Steubenville is that the humanity of women and girls continues to be of little importance in today’s society.

To begin, the assault itself was horrific.  While two teenage boys took turns raping and abusing the body of Jane Doe, the other boys present took great pleasure in watching, taking pictures, texting, tweeting, facebooking, and video recording the brutality.  It was a scene out of The Accused (the film that recounted the real life rape of a woman while a crowd watched a cheered) all over again–this time with the “benefit” of modern technology.  Not only were those in the room witnesses to this gruesome attack, the entire world became voyeurs as video, pictures, and text went viral. Continue reading “What We’ve Learned from Steubenville by Gina Messina-Dysert”

Second Class Rape Victims: Rape Hierarchy and Gender Conflict

Deconstructing masculinity isn’t the key to solving social, sexual, and domestic violence across the world but it is a step worth taking when attempting to engage men in affecting change to stop these violent actions since men, statistically are the perpetrators of such crimes that both cause such outcry as well as perpetual silence.

johnThe most disturbing part of the 2006 documentary Deliver Us from Evil isn’t the fact that Father Oliver O’Grady is rewarded by the Catholic Church with a new congregation in Ireland after his short stint in prison for the rape of dozens of children in the 1970s, but rather the hierarchy of gendered victimization which is often created throughout the various rape cases that are both reported and unreported throughout history.

I am often troubled by the ways in which rape cases are discussed and deconstructed via mediums such as blogs, online communities, social media networks, the news, and popular culture.  No series of events troubled me more than the Jerry Sandusky trial, but more importantly, the ways in which the young boys and adult men who were subjected to Sandusky’s abuse quickly overshadowed the other rape cases that are reported on a daily basis, specifically those involving young girls and women. Continue reading “Second Class Rape Victims: Rape Hierarchy and Gender Conflict”

Les Miserables’ Fantine, Women’s Suffering, and Female Migrant Labor by Gina Messina-Dysert

Gina Messina-Dysert profileUpon the recommendation of several friends and colleagues I decided to see the film Les Miserables.  It is rare these days that I make it to the movies.  My life is generally over scheduled and spare time is nonexistent.  So with just a few days left until the start of the semester and with a pile of work on my desk, I decided to throw caution to the wind and head to the theater last-minute to see Victor Hugo’s masterpiece on the big screen.

First, can I say what a brilliant surprise the film itself was?  I wondered if Hollywood could do justice to Hugo; from the moment of the opening scene I was in absolute awe.  I left the theater experiencing a momentary resurrection.

Anne Hathaway / Les Misérables: © Universal Pictures.
Anne Hathaway / Les Misérables: © Universal Pictures.

While the entire film was amazing, I would have seen it for nothing else but Anne Hathaway’s performance as Fantine.  I felt her suffering in the depths of my soul and wept along with her.  In Fantine we see the suffering of Everywoman.  She represents the thin line between those virtuous and those fallen and mirrors women’s imprisonment within this dichotomy.     Continue reading “Les Miserables’ Fantine, Women’s Suffering, and Female Migrant Labor by Gina Messina-Dysert”

The Impact of Excommunication in the 21st Century (Part I) – Spiritual Redemption or Hegemonic Power by Michele Stopera Freyhauf

The Lord loves everyone and died for everyone, and He wants all to be saved…the best lesson that can be learned from everything that has happened is that one finds happiness, joy and satisfaction in obedience to the Church.”Bishop Bruskewitz

One of the most misunderstood concepts in the Catholic Church is excommunication.  Many believe that excommunication is a complete termination or separation from the Catholic Church.  To say this another way, if excommunicated, you are no longer Catholic or part (a member) of the Catholic Church.  None of these statements are true.  By baptism, you are a member of the Catholic Church and no one can take that away.

Much of the misunderstanding stems from the way excommunication was used in the Middle Ages; a means of coercion to control kings and other high ranking officials.  Obedience to the Church meant that you will spend eternal life in heaven.  Disobedience to the Church meant a complete separation from the Church; a ban against  receiving Eucharist, a banishment of your soul to the eternal flames of hell.  Excommunication was the highest form of punishment and the most meaningful (and effective) tools of control.  When a person was excommunicated, there was even a public ceremony –  a bell tolled for the excommunicant, as a bell that would chime for the dead, the Gospels were closed, and a (baptismal) candle would be extinguished.  This ceremony signified eternal darkness and death. Continue reading “The Impact of Excommunication in the 21st Century (Part I) – Spiritual Redemption or Hegemonic Power by Michele Stopera Freyhauf”

Confessions of a Former Sex Worker by Anonymous

Empowered?  I thought so.  At least sometimes.  I was barely an adult when I entered the sex industry at the young age of eighteen.  I had little life experience, was high school drop out, and was forced out on my own a year earlier.  I quickly found that the fast food industry offered me little chance of survival.  After working seven days a week (with 3-4 of those days being double shifts), barely making my bills, and living off of a tub of expired granola I took from work (and the one meal a day I was provided on the job), I could not help but be enticed by the idea of making hundreds of dollars a day for simply taking off my clothes.

It was a woman I worked with who introduced me to the idea.  Her sister was a “stripper” and dating the manager of a local club and she suggested I audition to be a dancer.  The wages were more than I had ever imagined earning and I was tempted on many levels to take her advice. Being able to support myself comfortably seemed the answer to my problems, even if it meant violating my moral code. Continue reading “Confessions of a Former Sex Worker by Anonymous”

Please Excuse Me for Having a Penis: Taking a Back Seat to Privilege and Power by John Erickson

Male feminists must be aware that we not only engage in an ongoing struggle against sexual and gender inequality, but more importantly an ongoing fight with ourselves.

I have often struggled with that little voice, call it my conscience if you will, that speaks to me during times of distress.  Although I consider myself a proud feminist, I still struggle with aspects of what I call, internalized misogyny, or more aptly defined as a male born characteristic trait that imparts the idea that men are not only dominant but also more powerful than the other 50% of the species.

For many reasons, I believe religion is one of the main culprits of this growing evil, one that we all witnessed throughout this last election cycle.  However, instead of placing blame solely on religion and images of the male Godhead we have to begin deconstructing the sociological consequences these subconscious social, sexual, religious, and gendered norms have on men but more importantly men who identify as feminists. Continue reading “Please Excuse Me for Having a Penis: Taking a Back Seat to Privilege and Power by John Erickson”

Smells Like Homeness by Erin Lane

“Tell me why it can’t be that simple,” I plead with my husband. “He needs a bed. We have a guest room.”

I am desperate for an answer that will assuage my guilt and brighten my mood. It’s more than that, though. I want an answer that will fix the problem of Michael’s homelessness, one that will ease both his pain and mine. Continue reading “Smells Like Homeness by Erin Lane”

It’s Junk Science by Brian Froelich

Let’s be honest. It’s not about the junk science. There were some crazy things said recently but they were crazy with a purpose.

Republican Rep. Todd Aikin (who is a policy blood brother to Republican Reps. Paul Ryan and Chris Smith) effectively said a woman’s subconscious can determine if she gets pregnant. He said as a result of a rape a women’s body can shut down its reproductive mechanisms. Of course this is junk science. And Republicans quickly reacted to the predictable public uproar by castigating Rep. Aikin and seeking his resignation from the race. (Two interesting exceptions to that list were former Presidential candidate Mike Huckabee and current Congressional candidate Rep. Chris Smith. Huckabee by his stout defense and Smith by his silence.)

But this had nothing to do with Republicans’ regard for science. In fact science is held in very low regard in the Republican party. This is best exemplified by the fact that the Republicans appointed Rep. Aikin to the Congressional Science Committee. Continue reading “It’s Junk Science by Brian Froelich”

Rape is Not a Political Platform – Rape is a Violent Crime! By Michele Stopera Freyhauf

Just when you think you have heard it all, here we go again – another politician with “open mouth-insert foot” syndrome.  Discussing his zero-tolerance policy for abortion, Missouri Representative Todd Akin made the following statement last Sunday about pregnancies that result from rape:

“from what I understand from doctors, that’s really rare.  If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.  But let’s assume that maybe that didn’t work or something.  I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be on the rapist and not attacking the child.”

In an inadequate attempt to apologize and clarify his words, Akin stated that he meant to say “forcible rape.” This clarification fares no better nor does the fact that he later acknowledges that women “do become pregnant” during a “forcible rape.”  It is interesting to note what Akin considers to be “rare.”  According to the Washington Post, approximately 5% of rape victims become pregnant.  Akin reduced this to a statistic – 1 out of 32,000 women.  This, for Akin, is a rare occurrence.

Stating that a woman’s body is capable of preventing pregnancy in the case of “legitimate rape” demonstrates how out of touch politicians are and further (re)affirms the bigotry that exists within our political system.  The same politicians who have waived a “war against women” this year, try to promote policies that exercise control over what a woman can and cannot do with her body; policies that are  based on ill-advised misinformation.  Decisions politicians make for a woman – what she can and cannot do with her body – are rooted in personal faith beliefs, party-line agendas, and supporters (campaign financing dollars and lobbyists).  This year, a woman’s body has become a platform for votes.

Inasmuch as I would like to think Akin’s statement is an isolated event, Garance Franke-Ruta points out that this is not the first time a politician made a statement about rape victims and pregnancies: Continue reading “Rape is Not a Political Platform – Rape is a Violent Crime! By Michele Stopera Freyhauf”


Elie Wiesel, Holocaust survivor and renowned Jewish thinker, believes that no one can ever truly understand the profundity and tragedy of the Shoah unless one experienced it.  For him, silence is the best way to express the events since words fail to do justice.  The principle of letting silence speak, when words no longer can, when pain is so real it debilitates and when tears flow more freely than thoughts, is not original to the twentieth century.  The Bible contains many events and personal stories in which this is the case.

Judges 19 begins with two characters: a Levite and his concubine.  The concubine has recently run away to her father’s house, when her husband decides to visit her there trying to win her back.  He seems to have only good intentions in mind.  After leaving her father’s house with his wife, the Levite discusses his future plans with his servant who apparently accompanied him on the journey.  He still has not spoken a word to his wife.

The servant and the Levite decide to spend the night in Gibeah, a Benjaminite city.  The three of them sit in the city’s square waiting for someone to take them in but no one arrives until evening.  At dusk, an old man comes by and offers to take care of the needs of the entire party, including the donkeys, as long as they promised not to spend the night in the city square. Continue reading “JUDGES 19: A BRIEF PAUSE FROM JUSTICE-WORK TO BE WITH HER IN THE SILENCE BY IVY HELMAN”

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

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

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

Family Picture (wikipedi.com)
Family Picture from wikipedia.com

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

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

Reproductive Justice by Gina Messina-Dysert

Following the testimony of Sandra Fluke on the lack of availability of contraception and the appalling remarks by Rush Limbaugh that took place in early March, 2012, much discussion around issues of reproductive justice has emerged.  Among these conversations, Mary Hunt recently shared her thoughts in “Contraceptive Controversies” on the issue on FSR-Inc., and graduate students Katie German and Linda Claros organized an event at Loyola Marymount University to invite faculty members, students, and interested persons to engage in dialogue on reproductive justice.  I was honored to have the opportunity to participate in that discussion and would like to share my thoughts here in an effort to continue that dialogue.

To begin, I understand reproductive justice as the call for the social, political and economic ability to make responsible and healthy decisions about gender, sexuality, and procreation for ourselves and our communities with the goal of transforming power inequities and bringing about systemic change.  The denial of reproductive justice in the Catholic Church is a symptom of the larger rape culture.  When I use this phrase I am referring to a culture that not only perpetrates rape, but all forms of sexualized violence against women and girls. Continue reading “Reproductive Justice by Gina Messina-Dysert”

Life Must Always Be Protected by Bridget Ludwa

Women’s dignity has often been unacknowledged and their prerogatives misrepresented; they have often been relegated to the margins of society and even reduced to servitude… Then too, when we look at one of the most sensitive aspects of the situation of women in the world, how can we not mention the long and degrading history, albeit often an “underground” history, of violence against women in the area of sexuality? At the threshold of the Third Millennium we cannot remain indifferent and resigned before this phenomenon. The time has come to condemn vigorously the types of sexual violence which frequently have women for their object and to pass laws which effectively defend them from such violence. Nor can we fail, in the name of the respect due to the human person, to condemn the widespread hedonistic and commercial culture which encourages the systematic exploitation of sexuality and corrupts even very young girls into letting their bodies be used for profit. – Pope John Paul II

 If the Vatican desires an unambiguous message of concern for women, then it needs to address the acts of violence committed against women’s bodies.  In focusing on the end result of sexual violence, aborted pregnancies, and not addressing the violence itself, Vatican leadership fails to communicate this concern for women’s bodies. Continue reading “Life Must Always Be Protected by Bridget Ludwa”

Is Baptism a Male Birthing Ritual? By Michele Stopera Freyhauf

Quite a number of years ago I had a conversation with one of my professors, a feminist theologian, who posed the question “Why do I need a man to purify my baby with the waters of baptism?  Is there something wrong or impure about the blood and water from a mother’s womb – my womb?”  Before you jump and shout the words Sacrament or removal of original sin, this question bears merit in exploring, especially in today’s world where women are taking a serious beating religiously, politically, and socially.  In today’s world, violations and rants are causing women to stand up and say STOP!  This is MY Body.  This outcry was provoked by chants of ethical slurs against women– Slut! Prostitute! Whore!  The cry got even louder when the issue of religion and government was raised in the fight of healthcare coverage of contraception. The cry got even louder with the enactment of the laws in Virginia and Texas (and many other states to follow suit) that forces women to undergo transvaginal ultrasounds in early stage abortions.  The mandatory insertion of a wand into a woman’s vagina (mandated by the government, mind you), is a violation and has women crying RAPE!

The memory of this conversation did not re-appear by chance, it was prompted by a book I read for my History of Sexuality Class – Imperial Leather: Race, Gender, and Sexuality in the Colonial Context by Anne McClintock who addresses the notion of baptism through origins, property, and power.  So many things are currently being taken away from women and reading McClintock’s assertion regarding male baptism is perplexing.  She believes that male baptism or baptism by a man takes women’s role in child bearing and diminishes it.  These are the same men who historically treated and regarded women as vessels.  She further asserts that this act is a proactive removal of creative agency with respect to a woman’s ability to have the power to name.  That is, the last name of the child belongs to the husband.  A point that supports the notion that patrimony marks the denial of women.  Anyone doing genealogy encounters a perplexing struggle to identify mothers because their names are essentially erased from memory and rarely attached to a child’s name. Continue reading “Is Baptism a Male Birthing Ritual? By Michele Stopera Freyhauf”

Women being “Raped too much?”: Fox News, Liz Trotta, and Rape Culture by Gina Messina-Dysert

I may be a bit late to the conversation, but it is impossible for me not to comment on the infuriating statements made by Liz Trotta on Fox News about the staggering 64% increase in sexual assaults against women in the military since 2006.  Responding to reports from the Pentagon about women serving in combat, Trotta complained that money is being wasted on women in the military who are “raped too much.”  The statements by the Fox News pundit well demonstrate the existence of rape culture within our society and the continued problem of victim blaming and double victimization experienced by women who have been raped.

In her rant, Trotta claimed that women want to be “warriors and victims at the same time.”  She argued that women who want to serve in the military should expect to be raped and not raise such a fuss about it. She also alleged that “feminists” have demanded too much money to fund programs for sexual abuse victims.

“I think they have actually discovered that there is a difference between men and women. And the sexual abuse report says that there has been, since 2006, a 64% increase in violent sexual assaults. Now, what did they expect? These people are in close contact, the whole airing of this issue has never been done by Congress, it’s strictly been a question of pressure from the feminists… You have this whole bureaucracy upon bureaucracy being built up with all kinds of levels of people to support women in the military who are now being raped too much.”

First, I must ask, is there an acceptable amount of rape?  Trotta’s tone is outrageous as she implies that we should expect rape to occur if women and men are going to be in such “close contact” with each other.  Rape is not about sex; it is about violence.  Thus, the disturbing notion that men in the military rape because they cannot control their sexual urges is one that is ill-informed (not to mention a major insult to all men!). Continue reading “Women being “Raped too much?”: Fox News, Liz Trotta, and Rape Culture by Gina Messina-Dysert”

Hagar: A Portrait of a Victim of Domestic Violence and Rape

This week Twitter has been a flurry with information for victims of   domestic violence and rape.  This ranges from the U.S. redefinition of rape to include men to Nigeria’s first anti-rape toll free hotline for women.  There is even a male movement to stand against rape.  This problem is an ongoing issue, one that shows no sign of diminishing or going away.  According to Amnesty International, one in three women worldwide have been beaten, coerced into sex, or otherwise abused and their abuser is normally someone they know.  As I contemplate this very difficult issue, I am reminded of the Biblical Hagar in Genesis 16. The story of Hagar and Sarai is abundant

Men Can Stop Rape (http://www.mencanstoprape.org/)

in ethical situations that draw in the reader and presents complex issues that can be very troublesome.  If you take the text hermeneutically, through an ideological examination in its English translation, we have an Egyptian woman, who is also referred to as slave or concubine, forced to engage into sex with her owner’s husband for producing an heir.  Here the abuser is a woman with a docile and obedient husband portrayed by Abram.  What can we  glean from such a story for today’s battered women?  Hope or horrific defeat? Continue reading “Hagar: A Portrait of a Victim of Domestic Violence and Rape”

The Harlot Shall Be Burned with Fire: Biblical Literalism in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Sarah Sentilles

(spoiler alert)

Against my better judgment, this past weekend I went to see The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, directed by David Fincher who’s best known for Fight Club and The Social Network. I didn’t like the book; it unsettled me that a novel filled with sexual violence against women—a novel that seems to take pleasure in the violence, to offer it up for readers to consume—became such a sensation. But I’m a sucker for a trailer and a good soundtrack, and I was curious, so I bought a ticket.

The plot revolves around a missing girl and the serial killer believed to have murdered her who uses the Bible like a handbook. He takes passages from Leviticus—21:9 for example: The daughter of any priest, if she profanes herself by playing the harlot, she profanes her father. She shall be burned with fire—and enacts them on women’s bodies. On Jewish women’s bodies.

Please click here to continue reading this article at Religion Dispatches.

Sarah Sentilles is a scholar of religion, an award-winning speaker, and the author of three books including A Church of Her Own: What Happens When a Woman Takes the Pulpit (Harcourt, 2008) and Breaking Up with God (HarperOne, 2011). She earned a bachelor’s degree from Yale and a master’s of divinity and a doctorate in theology from Harvard, where she was awarded the Billings Preaching Prize and was the managing editor of the Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion. At the core of her scholarship, writing, and activism is a commitment to investigating the roles religious language, images, and practices play in oppression, violence, social transformation, and justice movements. She is currently at work on a novel and an edited volume that investigates the intersections of torture and Christianity.


January 11th is National Human Trafficking Awareness Day

This information was originally distributed by WATER:

January 11th is National Human Trafficking Awareness Day. Human trafficking, referred to as modern-day slavery, is the fastest growing and second most profitable criminal industry in the world. More than 27 million women, men, and children have become victims of human trafficking for labor and sexual exploitation. Trafficking can and does occur in all parts of the world, including the U.S. Large sporting events like the Super Bowl attract human trafficking, especially for sexual exploitation of women. Read Mary E. Hunt’s new article on human trafficking entitled “Women and Children First.”

Stories of Trafficking
Excerpted from www.polarisproject.org

Amanda learned that her cousin was with a pimp who was advertising her for commercial sex on various websites.

A teacher became concerned about one of her students, a 14 year-old girl, and spoke with classmates who directed the teacher to multiple postings advertising the young girl for commercial sex on backpage.com. Continue reading “January 11th is National Human Trafficking Awareness Day”

Well-Behaved Women Seldom Make History, But Obedient Ones are Rewarded in Heaven: An Examination of the Re-Invention of the Bengali Tradition of Sati By Michele Stopera Freyhauf

Well-Behaved Women Seldom Make History is a book authored by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich.  This has become a well-known phrase used by most feminists to imply a meaning of disobedience or stance against the patriarchal structure of society.  Often in error, the credit of the invention of this phrase is attributed Eleanor Roosevelt and Marilyn Monroe.  Their image, and especially the image of Monroe, will often appear with the slogan on merchandise as a means of marketing and raising revenue.  Ironically, reinvention or reuse is prevalent in history when it comes to tradition or ritual for the same reason – monetary gain.  This practice is common and the benefit of reinventing or reinterpreting an old tradition is an automatic connection to the past giving continuity, which, according to Eric Hobsbaum, instills strong “binding social practice,” (p. 10) including loyalty and duty in the members of the group.  This is especially effective in manipulating the poor and uneducated who usually display strict obedience and blind acceptance of tradition. The Bengali reinvented tradition of satî is an example of this. Continue reading “Well-Behaved Women Seldom Make History, But Obedient Ones are Rewarded in Heaven: An Examination of the Re-Invention of the Bengali Tradition of Sati By Michele Stopera Freyhauf”

Football as a Ritual Re-enacting Male Domination Through Force and Violence By Carol P. Christ

Carol P. Christ is a founding mother in the study of women and religion, feminist theology, women’s spirituality, and the Goddess movement.  She teaches in the Women’s Spirituality program at CIIS and through Ariadne Institute offers Goddess Pilgrimages to Crete. Her books include She Who Changes and Rebirth of the Goddess and the widely used anthologies Womanspirit Rising and Weaving the Visions.

The other day when Paula McGee asked on this blog how Penn State students could rally in support of Sandusky, I was also reading a student paper quoting Rianne Eisler’s opinion that peace and environmental justice cannot be achieved in dominator cultures. Xochitl Alvizo commented that we should not be surprised by the reactions of the students as we live in a “rape” culture.  I would add that we must examine the culture of male domination through force that is “football,” one of the “sacred cows” of American patriarchy, just as we need to examine the culture of hierarchical male domination of the Vatican in the context of child-rape by priests.  Continue reading “Football as a Ritual Re-enacting Male Domination Through Force and Violence By Carol P. Christ”

Can the Students at Penn State Read? Did They Read What I Read? By Paula McGee

The following is a guest post written by Paula McGee, dynamic preacher, writer, and inspirational speaker.  She earned a Master of Divinity from the Interdenominational Theological Center and a Master of Arts in Religion from Vanderbilt University. She is currently a Ph.D. candidate in Women’s Studies in Religion at Claremont Graduate University.  Her personal mission is “to inspire others to recognize, accept, and fulfill their call to greatness.”

“As the graduate assistant put the sneakers in his locker, he looked into the shower. He saw a naked boy, Victim 2, whose age he estimated to be ten years old, with his hands against the wall, being subjected to anal intercourse by a naked Sandusky.”

Can the students at Penn State read? I saw thousands of students rioting in the streets after the Board of Trustees announced the termination of football coaching legend Joe Paterno and President Graham Spanier. I wondered if the students had read page 6 of the 23 page Grand Jury report. The report provides detailed information on 8 victims. So I can’t imagine any student that would question the university’s decision to fire Joe Paterno, if they had read any portion of the report from the Grand Jury’s investigation. The details on page six have caused the most controversy. In 2002, a 28 year old graduate assistant walks in on Jerry Sandusky raping a ten year old boy. Sandusky is now telling people that he only showered with boys.  Continue reading “Can the Students at Penn State Read? Did They Read What I Read? By Paula McGee”

Confronting Sexual Harassment Ten Years Later: Speaking Out, Empowerment, and Refusing to Accept Defeat By Gina Messina-Dysert

Much of my research and activism thus far has centered on rape culture*, sexual violence, and spiritual wounding.  This being said, I have given little consideration, and have shared even less, of my own experience of sexual harassment perpetrated by a professor at the end of my undergraduate career.  Although I had called myself an advocate for women who had been victimized by various forms of violence, sexual included, I was unable to advocate for myself when confronted with my experience.  What’s more, although I have called for a speaking out of one’s experience of sexual violence in order to challenge the rape culture and begin the healing process, I have not been able to do this myself.

My professor sexually harassed me during my final semester of college in the very last course I needed to graduate.  The first time he approached me he asked me to stay after class.  Initially I was nervous thinking I had done something wrong; however I was surprised when he began to ask me personal questions.  I was engaged at the time and Dr. X commented how lucky my now husband was.  He then reached out, hugged me, and stroked my hair.   I didn’t move, I was scared and wondered what was happening. After a few moments, I forced myself out of his arms and with my head down, unable to look him in the eye, I said I had to leave and darted out the door. My initial reaction was to downplay his inappropriate behavior and I convinced myself that I must have misinterpreted the situation.  Continue reading “Confronting Sexual Harassment Ten Years Later: Speaking Out, Empowerment, and Refusing to Accept Defeat By Gina Messina-Dysert”

Finding my Voice through the Vagina Monologues By Anonymous

This post is written in conjunction with the Feminist Ethics Course Dialogue project sponsored by Claremont School of Theology in the Claremont Lincoln University Consortium,  Claremont Graduate University, and directed by Grace Yia-Hei Kao.

“Are you going to the Vagina Monologues try-outs tonight?” my friend asked me last year after class.

“I hadn’t planned on it,” I replied cautiously. Truth be told, the word ‘vagina’ made me uncomfortable. There were yearly productions of the Vagina Monologues at my undergraduate institution, but I never went. I thought it was a time when women gathered and performed monologues they had written, and I thought it demeaning to have these monologues named metonymically. I did not want to be associated with the Monologues: I was in favor of women’s equality, but I did not want to claim my sexuality in so visceral a manner. In my mind, the ‘Vagina’ of Vagina Monologues just referred to the actresses, not the content.

How wrong I was.  Continue reading “Finding my Voice through the Vagina Monologues By Anonymous”

The Scars Were Not Me: Gilligan and Self-Care By Drew Baker

This post is written in conjunction with the Feminist Ethics Course Dialogue project sponsored by Claremont School of Theology in the Claremont Lincoln University Consortium,  Claremont Graduate University, and directed by Grace Yia-Hei Kao.

Drew Baker is a feminist Buddhist-Christian PhD student in Religion, Ethics and Society at Claremont School of Theology. His work engages the interconnections between trauma theory, religious ethics and ghost narratives.

[DISCLAIMER: Sexual violence is contained in the post below]

When I was a freshman in college, I drastically misread Carol Gilligan’s In a Different Voice. I read her book then, and (wrongly) saw a mirror of my own ideals. Selfless care above all else. I see a more complicated and beautiful portrait in her book today. Something changed.

I was raised Buddhist. Like many Buddhists, I learned about the doctrine of no-self and the moral value of compassion. I came to wed the concepts in my mind. Selfless care. There were no virtues in the world beyond the mantra: ‘love others no matter the cost to the self.’

Kenosis can be quite pragmatically valuable to cultivate as a spiritual discipline for those with power. As a white straight man, honestly, there were few instances in my life growing up that should have called this personal virtue into question. Continue reading “The Scars Were Not Me: Gilligan and Self-Care By Drew Baker”

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