Revisiting Our Sisters’ Feminisms by Xochitl Alvizo

This post draws much from a previous post I wrote back in 2013, which generated great discussion in the comments. I came back to it as I was reflecting on our sisters’ revolution in Iran, Women, Life, Freedom, following the death of Mahsa “Zina” Amini while she was in the custody of the “morality police” in Iran. This woman-led movement has been nonstop for seven weeks. I’m in full support of the women and have continued to learn more about their context and history. The movement is powerful and inspiring, heavy and difficult, but its energy is alive and blazing. There is an impromptu song that has come to represent the movement; the song was created by linking real-time tweets and Instagram posts together – you can hear the song, read the lyrics, and see the screenshots in the video below:

Now the post I’m drawing back to from 2013 – a little different from the original – but one intended to invite us to reflect on our engagement with and support of one another across place and difference. And about the relationship between the local and global, and the need to hold a balance of both.

Continue reading “Revisiting Our Sisters’ Feminisms by Xochitl Alvizo”

Honoring My Academic Mothers: Carol Christ and bell hooks by Anjeanette LeBoeuf

I started writing this post a day after news broke that beloved activist, poet, feminist, and academic, bell hooks had passed away. This news comes months after our FAR community lost Carol Christ; another academic, feminist, writer, and maker of history. This post was finished as almost three weeks into a new year has gone by. The advent of 2022 is filled with the last two years’ heavy, unbelievable, heartbreaking, and extraordinary experiences and events.  

Continue reading “Honoring My Academic Mothers: Carol Christ and bell hooks by Anjeanette LeBoeuf”

Celebrating Our Girls, by Molly Remer

We gathered roses
and bright zinnias
to crown their heads with flowers,
these shining daughters
who we’ve cradled and fed
and loved with everything
we have
and everything we are.
We knelt before them and sang,
our hands gently washing the feet
that we once carried inside our own bodies
and that now follow
their own paths.
For a moment,
time folded
and we could see them
as babies in our arms,
curly hair and round faces,
at the same time seeing
the girls in front of us,
flowers in their hair,
bright eyed and smiling,
and so too
we see women of the future,
tall and strong boned
kneeling at the feet
of their own girls
as the song goes on and on.
We tried to tell them
what we want them to know,
what we want them to carry
with them as they go on their ways:
You are loved.
We are here.
You are loved.
You are strong.
You are magical.
We treasure who you are.
This love that carried them
forth into the very world
they walk on,
we hope it is enough
to embrace them for a lifetime,
and so we kneel and sing
and anoint and adorn
and hold their hands in ours.
We are here.
You are not alone.
You are wise in the ways.
You belong.
We are not sure if tears can say
what we mean to say,
but they fall anyway
as we try our best to weave
our words and wishes
and songs and stories,
with strength and confidence
into a cloak of power
that will encircle them with magic,
no matter
how far away
from us they journey.

Continue reading “Celebrating Our Girls, by Molly Remer”

The Blessing of the Elders by Rachel Thomas

, elders are people who have illuminated my path, inspired me to see my own potential. To open my eyes, all my senses, even those I did not know I had. Elders show bravery and model for us how to be strong.

As I rediscover my connection with the earth, my eco-consciousness inspires me to transform. As I go back to nature, I re-awaken my ancient cellular memories of living in harmony with the earth. I feel called to dance barefoot, play drums, make offerings, bathe in moonlight, harvest with my own hands. As I move forward on a path which is both new and old, it is my beloved elders who have shown me how to find my way.

What is an Elder?

The word elder comes from an Old English word which also meant ancestor or chief. A lot can change in a thousand years and many of us no longer honor older people or seek out them out for advice.

In my experience, elders are people who have illuminated my path, inspired me to see my own potential. To open my eyes, all my senses, even those I did not know I had. Elders show bravery and model for us how to be strong.

My first wise woman teachings came from my family. My mother, and her mother, taught me to be myself, to love being outdoors and the importance of having a garden. Feeling the joy of flowers, cooking with fresh herbs, planting a tree to honor the dead. These are a few ancient traditions of my ancestors that have survived even in a modernized and urban setting.

Continue reading “The Blessing of the Elders by Rachel Thomas”

What is an Elder?

The word elder comes from an Old English word which also meant ancestor or chief. A lot can change in a thousand years and many of us no longer honor older people or seek out them out for advice.

In my experience, elders are people who have illuminated my path, inspired me to see my own potential. To open my eyes, all my senses, even those I did not know I had. Elders show bravery and model for us how to be strong.

My first wise woman teachings came from my family. My mother, and her mother, taught me to be myself, to love being outdoors and the importance of having a garden. Feeling the joy of flowers, cooking with fresh herbs, planting a tree to honor the dead. These are a few ancient traditions of my ancestors that have survived even in a modernized and urban setting.

Continue reading “The Blessing of the Elders by Rachel Thomas”

From Military Wife to Peacebuilder – Learning from the Greenham Common Peace Women by Karen Leslie Hernandez

There’s a pinnacle moment, I believe, when everyone’s path is laid before them. The funny thing about that, is that we usually don’t see that moment, until many years later. It is then, at that sudden moment of clarity, in that epiphany, that it all comes together.

My former husband was in the United States Air Force and from 1990-1992, we were stationed at RAF Greenham Common, in the United Kingdom. When we first received our orders, not even ten minutes after, other service members started to inform us: “You’re going to where all those crazy ass bitches are.” “You’re gonna have to deal with those dike peaceniks.” “Wait until you get a load of those nasty, dirty women. They live at the base, camp out there, never shower, stop the convoys – they’re disgusting pigs.” Continue reading “From Military Wife to Peacebuilder – Learning from the Greenham Common Peace Women by Karen Leslie Hernandez”

May Her Memory Be A Revolution by Anjeanette LeBoeuf

On the eve of the Jewish Sabbath and the start of Rosh Hashanah, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg breathed her last breath. She was 87. She fought so hard for so long. She is an American patriot, hero, champion for women’s rights, and for many she was the stalwart bastion of justice and ‘liberal’ rulings. She was a Supreme Court Justice for 27 years. Her life has been put into books, a movie, and the most notorious memes around. She became known for elaborate collars over her Justice robes. We mourn the lost of her, we celebrate her memory, and we must pull up our boots and continue the fight.

Continue reading “May Her Memory Be A Revolution by Anjeanette LeBoeuf”

Pandemic Grace: A FAR Message from Xochitl Alvizo

Xochitl with hairHello FAR friends,

I hope you are each doing well – that you are holding up ok during these trying times. It’s Xochitl here. I’m the behind-the-scenes co-weaver keeping things afloat (to varying degrees!) on this collaborative endeavor we call Feminism and Religion.

You may have noticed some gaps in our postings these last couple of months; I want to reassure you that it’s all ok. The gaps are an indication that we are giving one another a lot of pandemic grace. These are tough times and we are all doing what we can to make it through.

FAR will keep publishing as our contributors are able to submit their pieces. We always also welcome new voices and contributions to join in. I will do my best to keep up with the correspondence, but I do appreciate your patience. We are an all-volunteer project and everything we do is done out of our heartfelt commitment. And for all of it, I am grateful.

May we all be well, may we be safe, and may we find our peace.

Rage on, friends!

~ Xochitl

P.S. I’m growing my hair out! I figured quarantine time was a good time to experiment…we’ll see how it goes :)


Mini-Reunion by Esther Nelson

A couple of weekends ago, Nancy, one of my classmates from nursing school, organized what she called a “mini-reunion” at her home in New Jersey.  Seven of us gathered together to well, reunite.  Our graduating class (Muhlenberg Hospital School of Nursing, Plainfield, N.J.) was small.  We started out with forty students—all women.  Only twenty of us made it to the finish line.  One of our fellow graduates, Marcia, died a few years ago.  Two or three of the initial forty students dropped out due to health problems, but were able to graduate a year later with the following year’s class.  Some students were asked to leave the program because they could not cut it academically or clinically.  Others decided they didn’t “belong” in nursing and quit.

These are the nurses that gathered for the “mini-reunion.”  Starting at the left: Lois, May, Esther, Carol Lee, Nancy, Chris, and Joyce. Continue reading “Mini-Reunion by Esther Nelson”

Insect Conversations by Barbara Ardinger

“She’s doing it again,” Mrs. Cockroach is saying to her friend Old Mrs. Spider. “You know? The giant? She’s been blowing on me and telling me to live somewhere else. Like, I’d leave a good home?”




Old Mrs. Spider looks up from her weaving. “Yes,” she says in a weary voice. “But you know she’s not a giant. She’s just a normal human being, well, overweight, as I understand humans measure their bodies. And if she’s going to blow on us and ask us to live somewhere else, well…..I think she needs to brush her teeth.”

Mrs. Cockroach chuckles. “Indeed. We insects, maybe with the exceptions of fleas and termites, we don’t have bad breath. Blood-breath and wood-breath are sour! I was sitting on the wall in her bathroom, keeping an eye on things and telling the termites to get away from the window, and she just walks up. Doesn’t she know we insects and arachnids are protecting her house?”

Continue reading “Insect Conversations by Barbara Ardinger”

It’s Called Practice For a Reason by Kate M. Brunner

My daily practice isn’t what I’d like it to be these days what with working two jobs, raising three teenagers, and going to grad school. I am clocking about 60 hours of work and school every week, which doesn’t leave very many spare hours for formal ritual, prayer, or meditation.

During previous phases of my life, I’ve had a daily devotional practice that’s taken on many different forms as my spiritual studies  deepen. I’ve learned to use new tools, and gone from singing other people’s chants to writing my own and creating my own prayers. As my path unfolded, my practice evolved. But last autumn, life shifted when I went back to school and shifted again a couple of months ago when I added a second job to the mix. My spiritual practice over the last month has been sporadic, random moments stolen from other obligations to say a rushed prayer, a chant sung on the drive to work, or an energy center balancing done in the shower before bed.

Meanwhile, in the back of my mind was the fact that I had committed to attending a 4-day training intensive within the Avalonian Tradition, followed immediately by a 4-day leadership retreat for the Sisterhood of Avalon. A couple of weeks ago, with my daily practice in what felt like utter shambles, I suffered an bout of extreme self-doubt. What was I thinking committing to this training intensive and leadership work when I couldn’t even manage to find 15 minutes every day to engage the practice of my faith? How on earth could I think I was ready for this? Should I even still go? Continue reading “It’s Called Practice For a Reason by Kate M. Brunner”

Her Love is the Love of God by Natalie Weaver

I used to hate Mother’s Day.  I have written about this before, so I won’t belabor the point.  Suffice it to say, I used to believe that Mother’s Day was the one of the biggest lies of all.  It was a day of demonstrated appreciation that seemed to say to me something like, “This card and dinner at Red Lobster is our way of not having to carry our part for the other 364 days each year.  You don’t have to clean up (pause) today, sucka!”  I know I’m getting better and better in my own skin, though, because this year I am not dreading Mother’s Day.  I’m not calling it Mule’s Day.  I’m actually sort of excited about it.

I haven’t swallowed a magic elixir that makes things easier or tidier.  I’m not taking anything for my mood.  My house is messier than ever as I prepare to move homes, and I am working harder than I ever have before.  My kids’ needs are greater than they were when they were babies, and I am doing things I have never done before, such as pleading for financial aid from the school and seeking county assistance for the medical needs of one of my children.  I’m exhausted, but I’m making decisions and signing deeds and taking out loans all by myself.  I get calls from people seeking payment on stuff I never thought possible, such as the daily phone call from the finance department at the cemetery.  My one hundred/month apparently isn’t sufficient.  But, I buried my dad with dignity, and I’m keeping my kids fed, clothed, and educated.  I pass kidney stones almost monthly, and my teaching is laborious, but I feel on fire with the zeal of God.  Truly, I’m starting to feel happy again, and my happiness is rooted in my gratitude.  I think the shittiness of recent years has finely tuned in me an appreciation of decency, and my eyes are opening once more to the radical joy of mere being when being is experienced as gratitude. Continue reading “Her Love is the Love of God by Natalie Weaver”

I Am Her by Karen Leslie Hernandez

I hear this a lot: “You’re Mexican? You don’t look it?” A friend I have had for over 40 years always says, “I don’t think of you that way.” I am never quite sure how to respond to these opinions. So, here, I muse.

My grandparents on my Dad’s side came over from Mexico in the early 1900’s. My grandfather, Juvenal, was a farmer and rancher for most of his life. Blond haired and blue eyed, his twinkle and staunch demeanor always made me wonder about his story. Unfortunately, I never met my maternal grandmother, Sofia, as she died when my father was 12 years old.

On my mom’s side, my great, great grandparents (Leonardo Romero) came over from Mexico in the 1800’s and helped to settle Tucson. The Romero family has spread far and wide throughout the West, but you can still go to the Romero House in Tucson, where they have art classes and have kept it has a historical landmark.

I am incredibly proud of my heritage – as light skinned and green eyed as I am, I consider myself Mexican American, and I proudly state that. Funny thing is, so many are uncomfortable with it. And, I wonder why.

Continue reading “I Am Her by Karen Leslie Hernandez”

Raven’s Cry by Sara Wright

Fake coyote calls split
a moon cracked sky in two.
False ‘Indian’ hoots and drums
stunned sleeping birds –
Why do ‘whites’
insist upon using Indigenous ways,
to make a point?
Coyotes know.

Did they think that she was blind
or that her dreaming body,
a roiling belly
wouldn’t warn her?
Deception is a ruse
to twist and hide from truth
even when La Llarona’s river
becomes a mirror
shivering under
winter solstice flight. Continue reading “Raven’s Cry by Sara Wright”

The Sanctuary of One Another by Molly Remer

53850207_2292227257656150_5800641319395131392_o“Please prepare me
to be a sanctuary.
Pure and holy
tried and true.
With thanksgiving
I’ll be a living
for you.”*

Beautiful Chorus (Hymns of Spirit)

In March, my husband drove our daughter into town to work at her Girl Scout cookie booth and released me to prepare for an all-day Red Tent retreat for my local women’s circle. After I packed my supplies for ritual, I set off on a walk in the deepening, rain-dark twilight. As I walked, I sang a song of sanctuary over and over, until I felt transported into a different type of consciousness, my feet steady on muddy gravel, the leafless branches stark against grey sky, moss and stones gleaming with sharp color against the roadside. A fallen tree absolutely carpeted with enchanting mushrooms caught my eye and invited me off the road and into its arms. As I stood there, feeling as if I had stepped out of ordinary reality and into a “backyard journey,” the spring peepers in the ephemeral pool in our field began their evening chorus. It has been so cold out with below freezing temperatures, snow, and ice for days since first hearing them in early March that I actually wondered if they would survive to continue their song.

Mercifully, though, it is not a silent spring. Continue reading “The Sanctuary of One Another by Molly Remer”

Bringing About the Revolution by Xochitl Alvizo

Happy day friends. It’s Sunday – maybe you have a day off from your income-making labor, maybe you’re home with the kiddos working more than usual since they have no school, or maybe it’s a day you have all to yourself – whatever is before you, I have a word I’d like to share with you today – enjoy being with you.

I say this because it’s the word I have needed for myself for a little while now. I have not enjoyed myself lately – neither being with myself nor being myself. As of late, I had lost touch with the fact that I am, or can be, an enjoyable person to be around. I know that sounds like a funny thing to say, and I don’t mean it in any weird or arrogant way; I just mean that yesterday morning I remembered that I can be quite fun. I can be goofy, loving, encouraging, friendly, attentive, thoughtful, strong, grounded, intellectually engaged…and, because of all this, I make pretty good company—even to myself! Continue reading “Bringing About the Revolution by Xochitl Alvizo”

Some Thoughts from Experience by Vanessa Rivera de la Fuente


I am a woman, a feminist, a Muslim. These three things are me, they are things that I have become, in that order. One is born with feminine sex, but it is only a biological determinism. I was born female and I have chosen to continue living as a woman. I decided to be and live as a feminist. I felt called to be a Muslim and I chose to listen to that call.

I love to be a woman, even in a world that hates me. The woman that I am, with my way of thinking, acting and feeling, my way of seeing the world and myself, is not a product of my sex, but of the story that I have gone through since I left my mother’s womb. The same goes for all women. Even beings born in the same country, city, year, even those who are sisters of blood, do not have the exact same story.

Continue reading “Some Thoughts from Experience by Vanessa Rivera de la Fuente”

Creating Women’s Circles that Heal and Enrich Our Lives by Anne Yeomans and the Women’s Well

From 1994 until 2012, the Women’s Well, based in Concord, Massachusetts, offered thousands of women the opportunity to participate in women’s circles of all kinds. In the first and second parts of this series, Anne Yeomans, a co-founder of the Women’s Well, and others who co-created the Women’s Well, shared about their experiences with the power and wisdom of the circle and the use of altars and ritual. (Part I and Part II).  This third part, explains the guidelines that the Women’s Well developed for their circles. This post is adapted from the Women’s Well website at

We often used the guidelines in our circles. Sometimes the facilitator or holder of the circle would speak of them and then place them around the circle on printed cards, to remind us of the quality of listening and speaking that we were trying to invite in.

These guidelines were originally drawn from the work of Tom Yeomans who developed a way of working in groups, called the Corona Process. It was an approach to group dialogue that came to him in a dream the night after attending a meeting with the great physicist David Bohn, who at the end of his life became interested in dialogue and world peace. Continue reading “Creating Women’s Circles that Heal and Enrich Our Lives by Anne Yeomans and the Women’s Well”

Ritual Theory: Sharing Stories by Molly Remer

“Ritual that is alive encourages each person to touch what is sacred in their own way, in their own time, through their own unique experience. So there evolves a dynamic dance between guiding and shaping the group’s experience and encouraging and supporting the individual’s experience, so there is a smooth and cohesive flow to the ritual.” –Suzanne Reitz and Sandy Hoyt (Celebrating, Honoring, Healing)

As a practicing priestess, one of the dynamic dances that I engage in is with the power of story. I both find that women’s stories are the vital lifeblood of conscious engagement and power-building with one another and that they can be one of the elements that bogs down a ritual and makes it lose power and magic. This is partially because the dominant culture may teach us to bond using stories in a way that actually drain our energy through “venting,” swapping complaints, trading to-do lists, and through describing behavior, motives, and character of other people. In women’s ritual space, I encourage people to dig deep, but also to share a here-and-now connection of shared experience rather than a ­there-and-then­ rendition of past experiences.

Chameli Ardagh in her Create Your Own Women’s Temple manual from Awakening Women explains:

To hold the group and space as sacred is one of the most important guidelines, and the guideline that may bring up the most questions or protests. It goes against our habits as women and against our identification with the small self; we are quite used to creating intimacy through sharing our wounds and problems. The Temple Group is not a place for processing wounds, analyzing ourselves, solving problems, complaining about our lovers, healing our addictions or sharing the stories of the personality. Many women’s circles (and support groups or sharing circles) are focused mostly on the personality. The Temple Group is, in a way, impersonal because it focuses on the larger vast nature of our true self. In the Temple Group we focus not so much on our identity as separate women, but on the whole group as one feminine divine body and expression. The impersonal guideline may sound uncaring at first, but as you explore new ways of being intimate and nourish each other as women, beyond the words, you discover that those are infinitely more fulfilling and caring than the personality talking and processing (p. 61).

I believe that we live in a storied reality and that we are constantly in the process of 22338975_2058326864379525_7570131764764457268_ostorying and re-storying our lives and that seeing our lives, and the lives of others, through a mythopoetic lens, can have a radically transformative impact on our experiences and our relationships. I have written about this for FAR in the past and noted that my personal lived experience is that stories have had more power in my own life as a woman than most other single influences. The sharing of story in an appropriate way is, indeed, intimately intertwined with good listening and warm connection. As the authors of the book Sacred Circles remind us “…in listening you become an opening for that other person…Indeed, nothing comes close to an evening spent spellbound by the stories of women’s inner lives.”

So, what is special about story as a medium and what can it offer to women that traditional forms of education cannot?

Stories are validating. They can communicate that you are not alone, not crazy, and not 23319504_1994649147413964_2818983018590835346_nweird. Stories are instructive without being directive or prescriptive. It is very easy to take what works from stories and leave the rest because stories communicate personal experiences and lessons learned, rather than expert direction, recommendations, or advice. Stories can also provide a point of identification and clarification as a way of sharing information that is open to possibility, rather than advice-giving.

Cautions in sharing stories while also listening to another’s experience include:

  • Are you so busy in your own story that you can’t see the person in front of you?
  • Does the story contain bad, inaccurate, or misleading information?
  • Is the story so long and involved that it is distracting from the other person’s point?
  • Does the story communicate that you are the only right person and that everyone else should do things exactly like you?
  • Is the story really advice or a “to do” disguised as a story?
  • Does the story redirect attention to you and away from the person in need of help/listening?
  • Does the story keep the focus in the past rather than the here and now present moment?
  • Is there a subtext of “you should…”?

Several of these self-awareness questions are much bigger concerns during a person-to-person direct dialogue such as at a women’s retreat rather than in written form such as blog. In reading stories, the reader has the power to engage or disengage with the story, while in person there is a possibility of becoming stuck in an unwelcome story. Some things to keep in mind while sharing stories in person are:

  • Sensitivity to whether your story is welcome, helpful, or contributing to the other person’s process.
  • Being mindful of personal motives—are you telling a story to bolster your own self-image, as a means of pointing out others’ flaws and failings, or to secretly give advice?
  • Asking yourself whether the story is one that will move us forward (returning to the here and now question above).

This work is beautiful. It is complex. It is multilayered. It is simple. It is hard. It is easy. It is rich and rewarding. It is dynamic and evolving and flowing. It is never the same.

May you be blessed with many stories together.

mollyatparkNote: there is a detailed audio exploration of the themes of this post available here.

Molly has been “gathering the women” to circle, sing, celebrate, and share since 2008. She plans and facilitates women’s circles, seasonal retreats and rituals, mother-daughter circles, family ceremonies, and red tent circles in rural Missouri and teaches online courses in Red Tent facilitation and Practical Priestessing. She is a priestess who holds MSW, M.Div, and D.Min degrees and wrote her dissertation about contemporary priestessing in the U.S. Molly and her husband Mark co-create Story Goddesses, original goddess sculptures, ceremony kits, and jewelry at Brigid’s Grove. Molly is the author of WomanrunesEarthprayer, and The Red Tent Resource Kit and she writes about thealogy, nature, practical priestessing, and the goddess at Patreon and at Brigid’s Grove.

Sisterhood, Service, Sovereignty: The Living Spirit of Avalon by Elizabeth Cunningham

Like so many women, I read Marion Zimmer Bradley’s The Mists of Avalon and got caught up in her vision of the Holy Isle and the priestesses who knew how to navigate those mists and travel between the worlds. Like so many women, I wished Avalon existed still.

In fact, Avalon does exist, because Jhenah Telyndru did more than wish. In 1995 she founded The Sisterhood of Avalon. Twenty-two years later, the Sisterhood is going strong and growing, attracting members from all over the world. I urge you to explore their website where the Sisters speak eloquently about their vision, structure, and purpose.

Continue reading “Sisterhood, Service, Sovereignty: The Living Spirit of Avalon by Elizabeth Cunningham”

Sacred Water by Molly Remer

“Drinking the water, I thought how earth and sky are generous with their gifts and how good it is to receive them. Most of us are taught, somehow, about giving and accepting human gifts, but not about opening ourselves and our bodies to welcome the sun, the land, the visions of sky and dreaming, not about standing in the rain ecstatic with what is offered.”

–Linda Hogan in Sisters of the Earth

The women have gathered in a large open living room, under high ceilings and banisters draped with goddess tapestries, their faces are turned towards me, waiting expectantly. We are here for our first overnight Red Tent Retreat, our women’s circle’s second only overnight ceremony in ten years. We are preparing to go on a pilgrimage. I tell them a synopsis version of Inanna’s descent into the underworld, her passage through seven gates and the requirement that at each gate she lie down something of herself, to give up or sacrifice something she holds dear, until she arrives naked and shaking in the depths of the underworld, with nothing left to offer, but her life.

In our own lives, I explain, we face Innana’s descents of our own. They may be as difficult as the death of an adult child, the loss of a baby, the diagnosis of significant illness, or a destroyed relationship. They may be as beautiful and yet soul-wrenchingly difficult as journeying through childbirth and walking through the underworld of postpartum with our newborns. They may be as seemingly every day as returning to school after a long absence. There is value in seeing our lives through this mythopoetic lens. When we story our realities, we find a connection to the experiences and courage of others, we find a pattern of our own lives, and we find a strength of purpose to go on. Continue reading “Sacred Water by Molly Remer”

What If…She’s Stronger than She Knows…by Molly Remer

“When I dare to be powerful–to use my strength in the service of my vision–then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid.”

Audre Lorde

“The purpose of life is not to maintain personal comfort; it’s to grow the soul.”

–Christina Baldwin

When teaching childbirth classes, I would speak to my clients about shifting the common fear-based “what if” cultural dialog of birth to “positive” anticipation rather than fears, encouraging them to ask themselves questions like: “what if I give birth and it is one of the most powerful, thrilling moments of my life?” While I stand by this practice, I also think about the what ifs that crawl out of our dark places and lodge in our hearts. The what ifs that snake around the edges of our consciousness in the early hours of the morning. The what ifs we try to push down, down, down and away. The what ifs that stalk us. The what ifs so very awful that we fear in giving voice to them, we might give life to them as well.

We may feel guilty, ashamed, negative, and apologetic about our deepest “what ifs.” We worry that if we speak of them, they might come true. We worry that in voicing them, we might make ourselves, our families, our communities, our work, or philosophies, our faiths, or whatever look bad. We want to be positive. We want to be blissfully empowered, confident, and courageous. And, guess what? We are. Sometimes that courage comes from looking the “what ifs” right in the eye. Sometimes it comes from living through them. My most powerful gift from my pregnancy with my daughter, my pregnancy-after-loss baby, was to watch myself feel the fear and do it anyway. I was brave. And, it changed me to learn that.

What if we can learn more from our shadows than we ever thought possible? There is power in thinking what if I can’t do this and then discovering that you CAN.

Continue reading “What If…She’s Stronger than She Knows…by Molly Remer”

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

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


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


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

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

A Feminism of the Right? by Race MoChridhe

Race MoChridheAs I read Carol Christ’s post, This Is How Liberal Democracy Dies, I was reminded of the women with whom the bulk of my research time lately has been spent—the Madrians, a Goddess movement that flourished in Britain and Ireland from the early 1970s until the mid-1980s. Like Christ, the Madrians believed that society was headed in a self-destructive direction and could best be reoriented through women’s wisdom. Like Christ, they admired Greek culture and looked to matrifocal Old Europe for inspiration. Like Christ, they found in both their experience of womanhood and in the model of that past a blueprint for a radically different kind of politics, but a politics that could scarcely be more unlike Christ’s.

They were environmentalists, pacifists, critics of capitalism, teachers of universal salvation, and often proudly-identifying lesbians, who advocated for women’s leadership in the home, in government, in education, and in religion. They were also Traditionalists, monarchists, and nationalists, who advocated for the fourfold social order, obedience to ecclesiastical authority, and the use of corporal punishment. Regularly seen at Goddess conferences and in the pages of magazines like The New Ecologist, they identified as feminists during their initial years, but by the early 1980s their writings self-identified as anti-feminist, offering a considered critique of a movement they had come to see as aligned with policies of the left which they believed robbed women of agency and sublimated them to a neutered, Enlightenment concept of the citizen that presumed masculine traits and values as its normative ideal. Continue reading “A Feminism of the Right? by Race MoChridhe”

We the People by Joyce Zonana

jz-headshotDuring the January 21st Women’s March in New York City, I was inspired and delighted by so many of the signs women and men had crafted to express their opposition to the current disastrous regime in the United States: “Grab America Back,” “Support Your Mom,” “Sad!,” “Miss Uterus Strikes Back.”  But one image stood out, mesmerizing me:  that of a woman proudly wearing an American flag as hijab, with a message below—“We The People Are Greater Than Fear.”  For several blocks as we made our way up Fifth Avenue, I walked beside a woman carrying that sign, and it became, for me, the most powerful symbol of the resistance we must all wage during the dark time ahead.

Poster by Shepard Fairey

Munira Ahmed photo by Ridwan Adhami

The image, based on a photograph of Munira Ahmed by Ridwan Adhami, was created for the Women’s March by graphic artist Shepard Fairey (who also designed the iconic image of Barack Obama, “Hope”).  It offers a striking visual challenge to a long-held orthodoxy, now brought to the fore by Donald Trump and his gang:  that Western-style liberal democracy (epitomized by the United States) is incompatible with Islam.  And, perhaps even more specifically, that Islam is incompatible with feminism.

Many Western women—including feminists—are still bound by the Orientalist worldview that encumbered our liberal feminist foremothers.   Continue reading “We the People by Joyce Zonana”

Seasons in Church and Life in the Company of Women by Elise M. Edwards

TElise Edwardshis week, the Christian season of Lent began. Ugh. Lent can be so somber and serious and gloomy. Last year, I didn’t want to place myself in that frame of mind. I was experiencing grief and self-doubt and loneliness, and felt that an extended period of reflection about self-denial, Christ’s suffering, and the sinful condition of humanity might pull me into an unhealthy depression. Also, I questioned why I should seek silence and solitude when I was already experiencing too much of it. I felt isolated.

This year is different for me. Once again, I’m entering the season with a grieving heart. I’m mourning the death of my cousin. But I do not feel isolated. I am not self-doubting. This January, I spent four continuous days with mentors and peers in academia who poured love and wisdom and inspiration into me. The women in our group sought each other out and had honest and authentic conversations about the successes and struggles in our lives. We affirmed self-care. We affirmed milestone birthdays. We affirmed our bodies, despite the physical limitations we sometimes feel. We affirmed the tough decisions some had made, the transformations some were pursuing, and the exciting opportunities that had developed for others since we last met over the summer.

It was a powerful experience, but there was pain, too. We confronted fear, rejection, anxiety, exhaustion, and frustration. I felt blessed—divinely gifted—to have an opportunity to speak honestly with my sisters in the spirit about the people and issues on our hearts: challenges with students, systemic racism and sexism, menopause, children, research questions, financial decisions, romance, and health.

I was on an emotional high from the power that comes from being truly known and loved and I was reveling in the power of that love. Continue reading “Seasons in Church and Life in the Company of Women by Elise M. Edwards”

Restoring Ourselves to Ceremony: Red Tent Circles, by Molly

April 2015 103
At a Red Tent Circle this spring.

I believe that these circles of women around us weave invisible nets of love that carry us when we’re weak and sing with us when we’re strong.”

–SARK, Succulent Wild Woman

Seven years ago, a small postcard at the local Unitarian Universalist church caught my eye. It was for a Cakes for the Queen of Heaven facilitator training at Eliot Chapel in St. Louis. I registered for the training and went, driving alone into an unknown neighborhood. There, I circled in ceremony and sisterhood with women I’d never met, exploring an area that was new for me, and yet that felt so right and so familiar.

I’d left my two young sons home for the day with my husband and it was the first time in what felt like a long time that I’d been on my own, as a woman and not someone’s mother. At the end of the day, each of us draped in beautiful fabric and sitting in a circle around a lovely altar covered with goddess art and symbols of personal empowerment, I looked around at the circle of women and I knew: THIS is what else there is for me. Continue reading “Restoring Ourselves to Ceremony: Red Tent Circles, by Molly”

Learning from the Nation by Jameelah X. Medina

Jameelah MedinaOne thing about the Nation of Islam (NOI) mosques that I have always enjoyed in comparison to mainstream Islamic mosques is that the gender separation is side-by-side rather than front-to-back with the women always in the back on the same level or in the back on a balcony or in a completely separate room in the back.

A few Sundays ago I went to the local NOI Mosque #97 and enjoyed the khutba (sermon) all in English and culturally relevant. I enjoyed it from the same room as the men, with complete access and in reach of the imam. Men were not given the prime seating in the front with women relegated to the back of the room. The front rows and all rows consisted of men and women equally. This is a complete departure from what I am used to in mainstream Islamic mosques I used to frequent. Continue reading “Learning from the Nation by Jameelah X. Medina”

Thoughts on Nuns and Sisters and Perpetual Indulgence by Marie Cartier

helen prejean
Marie and Sister Helen Prejean

The word “nun” can conjure images from traditional to irreverent in terms of gender. The gender of those who call themselves nuns can range from feminine to masculine, from a woman who looks like a woman dressed as a woman, a contemporary sister or “nun,” who does not wear the traditional black habit, but contemporary female clothing and perhaps a short veil or “wimple” and a cross around her neck; to a man dressed as nun in extremely sexual female garb, a “drag queen” nun; to the traditionally dressed nun, whose habit is a full-length black gown, and full veil covering everything but her face and hands, who means to conceal gender and become something else – a “nun.”

The physical space of “nun” then has opened the realm of gender for women, and recently men, since the creation of the category “nun” was established with the first order of female religious. Cloistered orders of women began in the fifth century, with the more liberated orders of “sisters” forming in the sixteenth century. The Encyclopedia of Catholicism lists approximately twelve Roman Catholic religious orders of sisters, or as they are commonly called, “nuns.” However, this terminology should be amended to allow for the difference between “sisters”- non-cloistered orders, and “nuns”- cloistered orders. Most traditionally the word nun officially refers to Roman Catholic nuns – those who take solemn vows of chastity, poverty and obedience, and live cloistered lives of silence, and prayerful meditation. Choir nuns, such as that of the famous convent headed by Hildegard de Bingen, (1098-1179), German nun, mystic and composer, chant the Liturgy of the Hours daily – consisting of a set order of readings and prayers, including Morning, Evening, Daytime and Night Prayers. Continue reading “Thoughts on Nuns and Sisters and Perpetual Indulgence by Marie Cartier”

The Difficult Issue of the Origins of the Buddhist Nuns’ Order by Oxana Poberejnaia

oxanaThe origins of the Buddhist Nuns ‘ Order are a contentious issue in Theravada Buddhism. Paradoxically, it is also the issue that is not discussed a lot. Which is surprising, as in current Buddhism there is a gaping hole where a Theravada Bhikkhuni (Nuns) community should be. The prevailing view is that the nuns’ full ordination line was irrevocably lost long in the past and cannot be restored.

There are separate attempts here and there to bring Theravada Nuns’ Order back, including Ajahn Brahm’s ordaining a group of nuns in Dhammasara Monastery in Australia in 2009. This resulted in severe criticism by some Theravada religious leaders and expulsion of Ajahn Brahm and the monastery he leads from the organisation of the Sangha of Wat Nong Pah Pong.

AniPemaChodronMahayana Nuns receive full ordination, as it is considered that historically the Order did not lose continuity since the Buddha’s times. However, for both Theravada and Mahayana something called “The Eight Garudhammas” – the eight heavy rules – remain a painful issue. These are the rules that the historical Buddha is supposed to have given the first nuns to whom he gave ordination. These eight rules were the condition on which the Buddha would even allow women to become Bhikkhuni.

Continue reading “The Difficult Issue of the Origins of the Buddhist Nuns’ Order by Oxana Poberejnaia”

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”

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