Happiness Habits by Katey Zeh

derek-thomson-406050Finding joy has never been a priority for me in terms of how I structure my life. A long-term goal? Certainly, yes. My path to getting there, however, has been misguided. I’ve held the common belief that if I can achieve and succeed enough, joy–or at the very least, contentment–will find its way to me.

Sometimes I wonder if I was drawn initially to the field of faith-based advocacy because the nature of the work is to resist complacency. The successes are few and far between, and they are never sufficient for achieving the ultimate goal of justice for all. My proclivity to be dissatisfied with progress and to keep on pushing aligns well with the vision of many social justice movements.  

My permanent state of dissatisfaction, which was for some time a motivational force, seeped into how I felt about nearly everything. Whenever feelings of joy or happiness would arise, particularly around work, I often attributed them to a false sense of pride that had caused me to lose focus on the long game. In short, I didn’t believe I deserved to feel joy. Continue reading “Happiness Habits by Katey Zeh”

High Stakes for Women in Leadership: A Reflection and a Prayer by Elise M. Edwards

elise-edwardsA few weeks ago, I was asked to give the invocation for a luncheon at my university.  Baylor University was celebrating our presidential inauguration and there were several events leading up to the installation of the university’s 15th president. The inauguration was historic because it ceremonially marks the beginning of a term for our first female president, Dr. Linda A. Livingstone.

As I write, it is a year after Hillary Rodham Clinton lost the election for President of the United States of America. Like many of us, I’m still coming to terms with the choice my nation made, and how we came to it.  I’m thinking about women in leadership, especially occasions such leadership marks a first, a departure for an institution or system marked by male privilege.

What does it mean when an institution is willing to deviate from its long-established patterns of leadership and entrust its governance to women?

Continue reading “High Stakes for Women in Leadership: A Reflection and a Prayer by Elise M. Edwards”

Neither My Duty nor My Honor by Natalie Weaver

Just the other day, I realized that discussion of my housekeeping has been a fairly regular conversation throughout my life.  One of my earliest memories is being about four years old in my yellow bedroom on Ruth Avenue in North Canton, Ohio, sitting amidst what seemed like a mountain of stuff.  I was trying to organize and put it away at my mother’s behest.  I had a red bandana tied across the top of my hair, and I was pressed up against a large cardboard box decorated with Disney’s slapstick hero, Donald Duck.  I was young and apparently had not learned how to differentiate all my consonants, because, as the story goes, I complained that all I ever did was “cwean, cwean, cwean!”

As a teenager in my mauve bedroom on Demington Avenue in Canton, Ohio, my sister and I, who shared a bedroom, were under the constant scrutiny of our stepfather.  I don’t remember it being exceptionally messy in there; the space was probably maintained better than average for kids our age, but the house was managed like the army.  Once, the appearance of the room was sufficiently troubling as to result in the removal of our bedroom door from its hinges.  I am still not sure what the purpose of this weird punishment was (humiliation?), but I recall feeling this to be one of the lowest points in my whole housecleaning career. Continue reading “Neither My Duty nor My Honor by Natalie Weaver”

Householders’ Superstitions and the Higher Truth by Oxana Poberejnaia

I watched this short video on facebook about Sisa, an Egyptian woman who spent forty years a man in order provide for her family. There is a longer version on YouTube. Sisa, a widow, decided to work to feed her children, and consequently grandchildren. In Egypt, a woman can only do unpaid jobs within a home. So Sisa had to pretend to be a man by wearing male clothing and head wear. She takes casual jobs, such as shoe shining or brick laying.

Then Sisa made the news and was honoured by governmental officials. There is footage in the report of Egyptian men watching that footage. Apparently, the men were impressed by Sisa’s efforts and they developed respect for her. One man, who knows Sisa personally, says for camera: “I treat her like a man, because she works like a man”.

The implication being, I assume, that Sisa is only worthy of respect because she acts like a man is expected to act. And another implication is that Sisa is an exception. He only prepared to treat her differently, as all the rest of the women in Egypt apparently cannot work as men.

Continue reading “Householders’ Superstitions and the Higher Truth by Oxana Poberejnaia”

The Upanishads and Work-Life Balance by Elisabeth Schilling

IMG_0617My idleness has been cured as I take a new job teaching college English to high school students at a charter school for eight hours a day. At exactly my 80th and last job application since January 2017, I received the offer just a few hours after my interview and had just a few days to pack up my life and leave. Traveling through desolate flatlands, relieved tornado season was quelled at late summer, I would finally embark on a full-time job, my last one having been almost a decade ago.

The Yoga Sutras taught me that if I pursued something with a sustained effort, for a long time, with enthusiasm, results would occur. They did. While before, teaching one online course and waking at 10 a.m. to log on to academic job websites to see what new positions might have appeared, now sleep seems like an elusive dream, but my emotional landscape has transformed from languid storm to something with cheer. Continue reading “The Upanishads and Work-Life Balance by Elisabeth Schilling”

My Turn: A Femifesto by Marcia Mount Shoop

It’s coming up on a year now that pretty much everything changed in my family’s life. My over twenty years of married life, up until last year around this time, our lives had been built around my husband’s job. John’s work as a coach in the NFL and Division I collegiate football had moved us all over the country—coast to coast and in between.

MMS Headshot 2015This time last year our move was for me to take a job. No more football. And a move not for football meant massive shifts in the daily life of our family.

I cannot count the number of times since I took this new job that people have said to me, “Finally, it’s your turn!” Continue reading “My Turn: A Femifesto by Marcia Mount Shoop”

Sex, Death and the Gods (Part II) by Vibha Shetiya

IMG_20160112_101035This continues my reflections on the Devidasis in Part 1.

The overall picture that emerged from the documentary “Sex, Death and the Gods” was that, in its current form, there were many layers to the Devadasi system. For one, the most heartbreaking of all, there were the helpless, underage girls protesting such an existence, pleading that they would rather be in school, instead of being trapped in what was essentially a form of sexual slavery. But then we also see the older Devadasis, women who had been dedicated as children themselves.

Within this latter bracket, there were two groups.Those that viewed the practice as evil, and those that saw it as empowering – they earned their own income and they didn’t have a man or mother-in-law to lord over them; in short, they were in-charge of their own households. To them, married life was akin to a life of servitude, sex was something they enjoyed, and they may have shared a more or less equal relationship with the men who were their customers, men who enjoyed their company and preferred being with a Devadasi rather than with spouses they never chose or couldn’t get along with. In the words of one Devadasi – “I am the boss.” Continue reading “Sex, Death and the Gods (Part II) by Vibha Shetiya”

Overworked, Overwired, Overtired? Then Disconnect by Kate Brunner

Kate close up at Llyn MorwynionI have this belief that there used to be boundaries between work and home; between boss/employee and family. That there used to be space to take a deep breath and let go for a minute. That most jobs did not require one to be on-call nonstop. Perhaps this perception is erroneous. Perhaps it’s a notion I picked up from thirty to fifty year old sitcoms. Perhaps childhood memories aren’t as sharp as they use to be and I was just too young to be aware of any work-related activities intruding on my parents’ family time. But it is still there- this notion in my head that “back in the day” the work day actually ended; that we could put down our tools and go home to rest for a bit before returning to the assorted tasks at hand.

As a young Army lieutenant, my peers and I joked that mobile phones and email were the worst things to ever happen to our work place. I’m not joking anymore. Don’t mistake me for a completely puritanical technophobe. I own a smartphone & a Chromebook, have social media accounts, live in a wifi-enabled house, etc.– heck, here I am blogging, editing, & project weaving in a digital collective that publishes content every single day. I multi-task shamelessly, answer emails at all hours, and work my work in and among social & familial activities. I am absolutely guilty of what I am writing to protest against today.

And yet….

Should I be doing these things? Are doing these things in the best interest of body & soul? Continue reading “Overworked, Overwired, Overtired? Then Disconnect by Kate Brunner”

My Terrible Transition Year and the Return of my Humanity by Xochitl Alvizo

Alvizo headshot smallI have called it, The Terrible Transition Year, this year of finishing dissertation, uprooting from home, moving cross-country, and starting a new full-time teaching job. Last year at this time I was in LA for a 7-8 week stay, away from home – which at the time was in Boston – writing dissertation nonstop. I spent the holidays apart from my family and shared in none of my traditional holiday celebrations as I intensely pushed forward to complete the dissertation. After (seemingly) endless edits back and forth with my advisor and second reader, I finished the dissertation just in time to successfully defended it in May.

During most of this dissertation-writing time, I never had the sense that there would be a successful end to it all. I wrote and submitted each chapter-draft always with the underlying fear that I would be told my work was unworthy, my logic lacking, and my thesis unsubstantiated. So I vividly remember the moment (I can actually still feel it) when I got definitive affirmation that my dissertation would reach a successful end. I remember the shock, the relief, and the physiological rush that coursed through my body as I read the words of approval that came in response to my last chapter. I remember my body shooting up off the chair and saying, “No!” as I read the email. It was a “No” of disbelief, as in “Can this really be?!” And it was. And only at that point did I believe my dissertation would be successful. Continue reading “My Terrible Transition Year and the Return of my Humanity by Xochitl Alvizo”

My Problem with the “Proverbs 31 Woman” by Elise M. Edwards

elise-edwardsIn my home, in my journals and notebooks, and in my office, I display proverbs and quotes of all kinds around me to inspire me to live meaningfully. Proverbs and fables from around the world are stacked on my bookshelves and bedside tables. I love reading what is called “wisdom literature” in the Christian Scriptures. But when I get to those final lines of the Book of Proverbs in the Bible, Proverbs 31 sets me on edge.

Proverbs 31 is a poem that begins with sayings of King Lemuel described as “an inspired utterance his mother taught him.” Lemuel’s mother instructs him to not spend his strength on women, to refrain from drinking and to defend the rights of the poor and needy. Verses 10-31, the ones I’ve heard most often read in church settings, follow that advice. They are an acrostic poem of verses that begin with the successive letters of the Hebrew alphabet to describe a noble wife. Instead of reciting the entire A-Z list (A is for adoring, B is for busy, C is for caring, D is for dutiful…), Christians will frequently read aloud only the verses selected below.

Epilogue: The Wife of Noble Character

10 A wife of noble character who can find?
She is worth far more than rubies.
11 Her husband has full confidence in her
and lacks nothing of value.
12 She brings him good, not harm,
all the days of her life.

25 She is clothed with strength and dignity;
she can laugh at the days to come.
26 She speaks with wisdom,
and faithful instruction is on her tongue.
27 She watches over the affairs of her household
and does not eat the bread of idleness.
28 Her children arise and call her blessed;
her husband also, and he praises her:
29 “Many women do noble things,
but you surpass them all.”
30 Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
31 Honor her for all that her hands have done,
and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.

I’ll admit it–the woman described here does sound honorable and praiseworthy.   My problem with this poem has more to do with the way I’ve heard it used than its content. In all but one setting, I’ve heard these verses proclaimed as a model for the ideal woman or as a guide to virtuous living for young women.

My first concern about that is a common feminist criticism: Not all women aspire to be wives and mothers. Some of the poem’s statements could apply to all women, like verse 21: “She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy.” But others are specific to marital domestic life, like verse 28 (above) and verse 15: “She gets up while it is still night; she provides food for her family.” Women without husbands and children cannot meet all Proverbs 31’s standards. And while family is of primary importance to many women, it is not the only area of a woman’s life that can provide her value and meaning.

I am also concerned that defining Proverbs 31 as a standard of womanhood communicates the idea that it is about women only. While there are references to tasks that have been traditionally gendered (women cook and sew, men take leadership roles outside the home), many of the qualities extolled here are commendable for adults of all genders. Strength, dignity, wisdom, and care are not gender-specific virtues. So why haven’t I heard this proverb set as an example for men, too?

My third concern about making this a guide to womanhood is that it seems to reinforce a standard of perfection. The Proverbs 31 woman is certainly industrious—no one can call her idle! But she also sounds exhausted. By my count, this woman does 23 things surpassingly, including buying fields, planting vineyards, making clothes and selling them. I’m concerned that when emphasizing the Proverbs 31 woman tells Christian women that they are not good, are not lovable, or are not enough until they meet this standard. For me, the message of the Christian gospel is about God’s radical, all-encompassing love for humanity in the face of our imperfection. While I do know some women with a healthy self-image, many are painfully aware that they do not meet some standard set for them. They could stand to be told more often that they are loved simply because they exist, not for what they do.

When I heard Proverbs 31 read at my Aunt Ruby’s funeral , I began to see something more meaningful in these words than an impossible standard for women to attain. The preacher quoted “She is worth far more than rubies” noting my beloved aunt’s name and her character. However, the message he preached that day wasn’t to set a standard of a good wife. It was to honor a woman who had lived a noble life. She was strong, dignified and wise. Her family knew she was blessed and that they were blessed by having her in their lives. She worshiped God and communicated her love of the Lord to successive generations.

When I heard Proverbs 31 spoken about my aunt, I began to find resolution to my concerns. In that setting, the poem was an affirmation of a life lived well, not an exhortation to perfection. Honoring someone is primarily about demonstrating love or respect to that person, not a list of qualities or accomplishments. Certainly, the person we admire may have qualities we seek to adopt to our own lives, but following their model involves more creativity and agency than reducing a poem like Proverbs 31 into a list of standards allows. Integrating those qualities into our own lives requires adapting their traits to our own circumstances and even rejecting some of our model’s qualities that don’t fit the unique vision of our lives that we (or God) have. While I admire the Proverbs 31 woman’s work ethic, I strive for a life with regular periods of rest and renewal.

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

So You’re Going to the AAR/SBL Annual Meeting by Kecia Ali

Kecia Ali Bio pic officeTen thousand people descend on San Diego this weekend for the American Academy of Religion and Society of Biblical Literature joint Annual Meeting. We will present papers, interview and be interviewed, shop for books, and network busily. Many will feel overwhelmed, lost, and/or hungry – convention center food somehow always manages to be lousy and expensive.

I have attended nearly every AAR Annual Meeting since 1999. I have presented papers, spoken on panels, responded to sessions, led tables at pre-conference workshops, and presided at business meetings. I have served on program unit steering committees and chaired a Section. I have gone to editorial board breakfasts and AAR committee meetings.  I have had coffee with editors with whom I’ve gone on to publish books. I have served as a mentor at the Women’s Mentoring Lunch. Though I never used the Employment Center as a job candidate, I have put in cubicle time as part of two search committees.

In other words, I know something about the Annual Meeting. Continue reading “So You’re Going to the AAR/SBL Annual Meeting by Kecia Ali”

Feminist Bookstores and the Disappearance of Sacred Space by Marie Cartier

MarieCartierforKCETa-thumb-300x448-72405In my book Baby, You Are my Religion: Women, Gay Bars, and Theology Before Stonewall I talked about the importance of the gay women’s bar (and gay men’s bar) as sacred space for pre-Stonewall homosexuals—how the community space of the gay bar was the only public space for pre-Stonewall homosexuals and how it galvanized and concretized a community that had no other way of connecting. It was “home.”

I was so fortunate to do two readings and signings for People Called Women, the feminist bookstore from Toledo, Ohio — and Ohio’s only feminist bookstore — when they brought their “traveling bookstore” which goes to feminist events (they also have their mortar and brick store in Ohio J which I was thrilled to visit) to Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival last week. I was thrilled that we were able to sell out of all the copies of my book that People Called Women brought “to the land” (Michfest). I was thrilled that so many women showed up to our event, told stories about early bar life, cried, shared hugs and created community — and bought books. It felt radical and “old school” feminist. It felt like something I have missed – that connection with a feminist bookstore–for Los Angeles lost our women’s bookstore in 1999 —15 years ago.

people called women- front of store
Marie Cartier w/ Gina Mercurio, owner of People Called Women, Photo by: Megan Morris

For many of us who came of age post-Stonewall in the mid 70s, 80s and late 90s, the gay women’s bookstores—or rather feminist bookstores — were these sacred “home” spaces. They were our “alternate church,” as I so label the pre-Stonewall bars.

I “came out” as a lesbian and as a feminist — in 1979. One of the first places I visited was New Words Bookstore in Cambridge, MA. New Words really did feel like that—“new words,” like parting the curtain onto a brand new world where I had access to language that finally made sense—a new way of communicating—that is what feminism felt like — like being able to talk and be heard and understood for the very first time. Continue reading “Feminist Bookstores and the Disappearance of Sacred Space by Marie Cartier”

Ask me No Questions by amina wadud

amina 2014 - cropped

In some alternate universe I would have complete control of what becomes part of discourse about me and about my work.  In THIS universe, I just try to set some minimal standards even when it might sometimes not seem generous to the persons who send requests to interview me.  Must be some alignment of the stars that I’ve been inundated with requests of late, so I will share some of the “types” of request to ask you–my community at Feminism and Religion blog-sphere–what you make of these, or how better to respond? I seriously contend that all people deserve dignity even when this might clash with the dignity of another human being at times.

First, there are the curiosity seekers from the world of fast pace media sensationalism, perhaps in order to keep up with the latest, hippest media hype they rush in with their requests.  While they often include the deadline they are up against, they simultaneously ignore that I might be up against my own deadlines, or just LIVING my life.  I’m clear from way back…the kind of work I do is not well suited for the 30 second sound bites, one second for each of the 30+ years I’ve spent to develop coherent reconstruction of Islamic thought and practice, away from the dominant patriarchal paradigm developed during its classical period and maintained until today.  By the time I explain even that previous sentence my 30 seconds are up!

Next would be sincere but slightly naive students of modern Islamic thought, Islamic reform or Islamic feminism. At one end they define the parameters of their research problem or their term paper (also on deadline) and then they ask me for references, despite particular interests that may be slightly outside my area of expertise.  I usually think and sometimes reply: I am not a reference librarian.  At the other end are graduate students who have more detailed inquiry to make and thus send along complex questions each one, in my mind, deserving a mini-dissertation in order to do justice with.  I have to temper my desire to assist them with a realistic assessment of how long I can be at their disposal. It is not uncommon to answer one set of questions only to be sent another set. Continue reading “Ask me No Questions by amina wadud”

Happy International Women’s Day, Men and Women of the World by Oxana Poberejnaia

oxanaI am writing this on International Women’s Day. I know from living in three different countries what different faces this day can have. And I can see how these different perceptions are informed by each country’s history and political situation. This is a Buddhist principle of dependent co-arising: nothing exists in separation from anything else, all phenomena arise in dependence on everything else.

8 Marta - 8 March Russian card
8 Marta – 8 March Russian card

For instance, the Soviet 8th March was a public holiday and culturally it was a day to celebrate femininity, and – separately but connected – awakening of nature in spring. In the US, International Women’s Day was next to non-existing when I lived there in mid-1990s, apart from for hardcore Communists and Socialists, who celebrated it as a milestone on the road to Socialist equality. In the UK nowadays, International Women’s Day takes on a shape of a women-only day, a statement of women’s independence and very often celebration of same-sex love between women.

Continue reading “Happy International Women’s Day, Men and Women of the World by Oxana Poberejnaia”

Women, Religion, and Whiskey by Phil Conner

Women, Religion, and WhiskeyAt some point in most of my days, I will center myself down with a glass of whiskey.  It is not the effects of the wonderful spirit that draw me to it so much as the myriad of flavors contained therein.  A good whiskey is like a good person; it will unfold with layers over time.  A good whiskey is always the same, always reminding you of why you loved it in the first place, but always fresh, exciting, and nuanced.  The experience of whiskey is a deeply spiritual one for me, and one that helps inform the way I move in the world.  Despite the fact that many whiskey-lovers experience whiskey in similar ways, whiskey brings with it negative binaries, especially in the United States.  Chief among these binary stereotypes are the two myths I despise the most: whiskey is a man’s drink and whiskey is antithetical to religion.  As someone who tends bar for a living, I see these myths perpetuated all too often.  “I don’t want that fruity drink; do I look like a chick to you?”  “Of course I want another drink.  What am I?  A Christian?”  Statements like these motivated me to start writing about whiskey in the first place, and Fred Minnick’s recent book, Whiskey Women: The Untold Story of How Women Saved Bourbon, Scotch, and Irish Whiskey, and the increasingly progressive whiskey-blogging community have helped me gain the courage to spread the gospel of the history and meaning of whiskey especially as it relates to women and religion. Continue reading “Women, Religion, and Whiskey by Phil Conner”

An Epic Woman: A Feminist Eulogy by Molly

editMollyNov 083There were some things about my grandmother that I didn’t find out until after she died. For example, in 1974, she co-organized a “Women’s Exchange”  in Fresno, California with the theme: Stop the World…We Want to Get On. How much I would have liked to talk to her about that! While I didn’t know about the fair, I do know that she was successful with her vision of getting on this brightly spinning world. My grandma was a woman who was hiking in the Channel Islands one month before receiving a diagnosis of aggressive pancreatic cancer. She was incredible.

After reading Grace Yia-Hei Kao’s recent post about giving a eulogy at her grandmother’s funeral, my thoughts turned to my grandmother’s memorial services this past spring. What, if any, are the components of a feminist eulogy? Grace wonders. In reading this, I reflected on the components of the services I prepared and participated in for my grandmother and I believe they fit the bill. In a pleasingly feminist move in itself, I was asked by my extended family to serve as the priestess at my grandmother’s “committal” service (in which her ashes were interred in the above-ground burial chamber that received my grandfather’s body in 1989).

It was deeply important to me to have multiple voices represented during the small, family-only, service and I enlisted all the grandchildren present, as well as her step-grandchildren, in an adapted responsive reading based on Walt Whitman’s “Song of the Open Road”. I chose it precisely because it spoke to the irrepressible, adventuresome spirit of my grandmother. It was a lot of pressure to be responsible for the family ceremony for the interment of her ashes. I wanted it to be perfect. I wanted it to be what she deserved. I wanted it to “speak” to every person there. I wanted it to be worthy of her. I hope it was enoughContinue reading “An Epic Woman: A Feminist Eulogy by Molly”

No More Of This in Academe! by Grace Yia-Hei Kao

Last week, social media was ablaze over a September 18 Pittsburg Post-Gazette column entitled “Death of An Adjunct” by Daniel Kovalik that had the following teaser: “Margaret Mary Vojtko, an adjunct professor of French for 25 years, died underpaid and underappreciated at age 83.”  Inside Higher Ed reports that the column went viral as “adjuncts across the country reported seeing something tragically familiar in her story.”  The Chronicle of Higher Education likewise covered the story with this tagline: “An Adjunct’s Death Becomes a Rallying Cry for Many In Academe.”

This tragedy involves all sorts of issues with which readers of this blog are concerned: power, structural injustice, job insecurity, underemployment, unions, healthcare, and Catholic values (the last of these since Margaret worked at a Catholic institution), to name a few.

Continue reading “No More Of This in Academe! by Grace Yia-Hei Kao”

Cultural conditions and Spiritual Subtleties by Oxana Poberejnaia

oxanaI am very grateful to Carol P. Christ and other contributors for their insightful comments and thoughtful questions to my post “Blindness of the Gals”. As I promised to Carol, here is my post that starts answering some of the issues raised in the comments.

I cannot say that it was giving birth to my daughter that first made me question my blindness to patriarchy in religion and culture. Rather, it was a gradual process of educating myself by reading works by feminist thinkers, and learning about the brave women and men who have been fighting and are still fighting for women’s rights.

Continue reading “Cultural conditions and Spiritual Subtleties by Oxana Poberejnaia”

To Dust and Ashes by Natalie Weaver

Natalie WeaverThis year marks the fifth anniversary of the publication of Mama, PhD: Women Write About Motherhood and Academic Life, edited by Caroline Grant and Elrena Evans.  I contributed a chapter.  A few days ago, I was contacted by the editors and asked for an update.  “What had changed for me in five years?” they asked.  As I tried to respond to their questions, I was surprised by the gravity in my heart.  When I wrote about motherhood and life as a professional theologian five years earlier, I was a new mother, applying for my third-year review, and trying to navigate my nascent roles as both mom and scholar/educator.  I felt overwhelmed to be sure, but I was overtly grateful to have such a rich and full array of choices about how I lived my life.  Here, a few years later, I am applying for full-professorship.  I am a more seasoned mother with two healthy children.  I chair two departments at my school, and I am generally more established in the many things I juggle simultaneously.  Had I given it any consideration, I would have anticipated a more cheerful five-year check-in. Continue reading “To Dust and Ashes by Natalie Weaver”

Blindness of the Gals by Oxana Poberejnaia

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

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

Continue reading “Blindness of the Gals by Oxana Poberejnaia”

A Calling, A Vocation by Elise M. Edwards

Elise Edwards

In my previous post The Feminist Influence, I began discussing what a feminist perspective might bring to a theological study of architecture.  I asserted that a feminist perspective on the ethical function of architecture offers at least two contributions: (1) it provokes questioning about what flourishing is for all peoples and the Earth, and (2) it provokes examination of systems of power and privilege and how they are constructed into our built landscape.  I think a feminist vision of architecture could help all of us (even those of us who are not design professionals) promote design that respects and responds to our environment, addressing the harm we have done.  I do want to give some thought, though, to what it means especially for architects and other design professionals. Continue reading “A Calling, A Vocation by Elise M. Edwards”

Protecting our Families: How the U.S. Falls Short in Protecting New Mothers (and Fathers) by Michele Stopera Freyhauf

Freyhauf, Feminism, Religion, Durham, Old Testament, Blogger, Bible, Gender, Violence, Ursuline, John CarrollLast weekend, I had the privilege of speaking at the National Convention for American Mothers, Inc. about motherhood in the 21st Century.  Because this is such a vital issue for mothers that live in the U.S. (since a large majority of families have two full-time wage earners), I thought it would be appropriate to share my speech here.  With the understanding that this a forum for feminism, I believe that this topic fits this forum because it continues to show how unequal the treatment is between the sexes – whether it is pay, position in employment, healthcare, education, or simply balancing the responsibilities of family/career.  For those that live in the United States, there is often a sense of exceptionalism, and as I clearly demonstrate in this speech, we are certainly a far cry from being role models that when it comes to protecting mothers (whether by birth or adoption) and families.

As a side note:  One topic that was not explored, due to lack of data, is how maternity/paternity leave impacts same sex couples who become new parents – I have to believe that this is a topic to also examine (and I am would encourage any feedback here).  

Recently the United States ranked 25 out of 165 countries for being the best place to live if you are a mother.  This number is up from 31 a year ago and places us between Belarus and the Czech Republic.

You may be asking yourself, Why isn’t the United States in the top five or even in the top ten? The answer to that question becomes evident once we examine how that determination is made. The categories examined are:

  • Mother’s education;
  • Child’s Health;
  • Economic status;
  • The Election of women to government office;
  • Breast feeding programs.  In the United States 75% of mothers breastfeed their babies, 35% continue to breastfeed after six weeks. The number shrinks because mothers usually return to work and find it difficult to to pump at the office;
  • Maternal death rate is another factor, which stunned me when I found out that the US has the highest maternal death rate of any industrialized nation. Approximately 1 in 2,100 women are at risk of dying during child birth;
  • Infant death rates is another category.  Infant deaths are estimated to be 8 per 1000 births – a number that throws us behind 40 other countries;

The Feminist Influence by Elise M. Edwards

Elise Edwards

In these past few months, as I’ve been finishing my dissertation about a theological and ethical perspective on architecture, I’ve had the pleasure of speaking often about my work.  In March, I was invited to give a talk at a symposium titled “On Christ and Architecture” at Judson University.  As they introduced me, the speakers noted that I am a black feminist.  Because of the brevity of my presentation, I didn’t speak about things that most people associate with feminism. So I was especially excited when at the end, one of the organizers complimented me by saying, “I really see the feminist influence in your work and I thank you for bringing that to us.” So exactly what does a feminist perspective bring to a theological study of architecture?

Perhaps first I should explain what my theological study of architecture is.  The purpose of architecture is sometimes understood as aesthetic or functional—to either make buildings that look nice or serve their purposes well (or both).  However, I discuss an ethical approach that expands this common understanding of architecture.  Grounding my research in philosopher Karsten Harries’ The Ethical Function of Architecture and theologian Timothy Gorringe’s A Theology of the Built Environment, I argue that architecture presents interpretations of a community ethos, or way of life, for its specific time and place.  These representations can either promote or inhibit human flourishing, and therefore, are the proper concern of Christian theology and ethics, which is concerned with questions about how Christians and those in the broader society are to live rightly in the world. Continue reading “The Feminist Influence by Elise M. Edwards”

Lucy Burns, A Look at a Catholic American Suffragette by Michele Stopera Freyhauf

As we approach the election period infused with controversy, saturated by television commercials, as well as endless advertisements on the radio, Internet, and yes, even Facebook, we must remember the sacrifices made by our foremothers during the suffrage movement, which gave women the right to vote.  While all elections are important, this one has targeted issues involving women in a way that could negatively impact our rights – to the point of rewinding the clock on progress made in women’s equality during the last 40+ years.  This election needs the voice of all informed voters.  However,  it is imperative for all women to make their voices heard this year by casting a vote.  To turn a blind eye to these issues diminishes the sacrifices our foremothers made for us. To not cast a vote takes away your voice, makes you a silent bystander – something that was tried by the government and patriarchal system during the suffrage movement.

To illustrate this, I would like to highlight Lucy Burns and the Night of Terror endured at the Occoquan Workhouse by her and many of her friends.   Of all Suffragettes, Lucy Burns spent more time in jail then any other protesters.  Born 1879 in Brooklyn, Lucy was raised in the Roman Catholic tradition by a father who believed that his sons and daughters should be educated equally.  Burns gradated from Vassar College in 1902, then attended Yale Graduate School studying linguistics.  She eventually went to Oxford University in England to resume her studies.  It was at Oxford that she became involved with activism and the suffrage movement. Continue reading “Lucy Burns, A Look at a Catholic American Suffragette by Michele Stopera Freyhauf”

Living Liminality: Of Thresholds and Dwelling Places by Marcia W. Mount Shoop

Sometimes I think it happened gradually.  Other times it feels like sudden change.  Either way I find myself in an in-between space that is my life.

With apologies to Victor Turner and his cultural anthropological appropriation of liminality as a threshold space, I have come to view my liminal living as a more permanent dwelling place these days.  Turner’s category of liminality locates subjects in the betwixt and between as they move from one manifestation of identity in community to a new kind of integration or role in community.   I am starting to wonder, however, if the thresholds are actually dwelling places for some of us in this world.

I don’t know if that means I am actually more marginal than I am liminal.  The margins are margins because they remain on the outskirts and they help define the boundaries.  Margins are permanent.  Am I marginalized if I live at the edges of the communities and identities I use to occupy, perhaps never to return to the bosom of the center? I hesitate to make such a claim mostly because I still occupy privileged spaces not the least of which are those constructed from how whiteness grants access and authority in this world. Continue reading “Living Liminality: Of Thresholds and Dwelling Places by Marcia W. Mount Shoop”

Re-creating the World by Elise Edwards

All of us have the same creative power as artists to contribute to the world in our own domains. When we do so, we re-create the world and participate in its ongoing creation.

For years, my friend Lisa Cole Smith has been working with artists and thinking about their important role in the world.  She has been building a community to support artists and other creative people through a Christian church in the Northern Virginia/Washington DC area and at times, I’ve been fortunate enough to participate in that effort.  My conversations with Lisa are always rewarding, whether we are simply catching up as friends, giving each other encouragement for our work, or discussing theological concepts.  Although she works in a church and I work in an academic setting, we have similar pursuits. Continue reading “Re-creating the World by Elise Edwards”

Narrative Textiles and Women’s Stories by Mary E. Hunt

Art, like religion, is a window into cultures. Women’s stories often find expression in narrative textiles, a medium I have long admired but never quite understood. I encountered the fabric art of Esther Nisenthal Krinitz recently. She was a Holocaust survivor who created stunning needlepoint pictures of her and her sister’s escape from Nazis in 1942. They left their Jewish parents behind and pretended to be Catholic girls from the country in order to survive. In 1977, she began to create 36 works of needlepoint in which she stitched the heart-wrenching episode with power and beauty, color and force, the memory of a child now seared in the heart of a woman.

Her daughters, Bernice Steinhardt and Helene McQuade, set up a foundation, Art and Remembrance, to show the “power of personal narrative in various forms of art to illuminate the effects of war, intolerance, and other forms of social injustice on its victims.” Their mother’s story is now available both in a book and a riveting film as well as in the art itself. These are narrative textiles of the most precious sort. Continue reading “Narrative Textiles and Women’s Stories by Mary E. Hunt”

Reflections on My Spiritual Journey: Claiming Judaism By Ivy Helman

“Is Ivy Helman Jewish?”   This question and knowing that eventually I’d have to respond one way or another to it has caused me many sleepless nights.  At the same time my faith journey has become integral to who I am and I would like to spend some time today sharing it with you.

Why share this and why now?  Well, first, I have not been ready until now.  In addition, external forces which I will talk about in a minute are making my spiritual path an issue.  So I share my story with a measure of concern about its possible effects but also with a great deal of joy about the ways in which my faith journey has challenged me to grow, reflect and change.

Margaret Farley emailed me about two weeks ago asking me how I identified religiously.  Someone had emailed her asking if I was Jewish because this person had read one of my past blogs in which I wrote “my rabbi” on feminismandreligion.com.  This same person is reviewing my book: Women and the Vatican: An Exploration of Official Documents.   Here is how I answered Margaret: “Hi Margaret, I’m Catholic although I do attend services at a Jewish synagogue on occasion since I was raised in essentially a multi-faith home.  On that blog, there really is no Jewish voice, so I try to comment on ideas from that tradition as much as I can.  Ivy.”  I felt unauthentic sending that email.  But, I did.

Still troubled by that answer and rather than put my friends and colleagues in the middle of questions about my faith, I feel that this has now become a public issue that I must address.  It is a question I have known I would have to answer at some point.  Nevertheless, this is not a decision that came easily or quickly.  I’ve literally agonized over it now for months.  During the time, I’ve never questioned my resolve to be Jewish and to continue to follow that spiritual journey in my life; I’ve worried more about how other people will respond and how their responses will affect my career in academia.   If I were allowed to rewrite that email to Margaret, then this is what I would say. Continue reading “Reflections on My Spiritual Journey: Claiming Judaism By Ivy Helman”

My Feminist Perspective of Authority – Part 1 by Elise M. Edwards

I make a distinction between power and authority.  Authority is a personal characteristic based on a relationship of trust between me and a text, a person, or their work.  Power, on the other hand, is operative with or without trust.

This past weekend, I had the honor of participating in a workshop on Living Texts: Celebrating Feminist Perspective and Theo/alogy, Authority, and the Sacred in the Academy.  The workshop was organized for the Women’s Caucus of WECSOR, a regional association of national organizations who study religion.  I was delighted to connect with new friends, mentors and sisters interested in feminism and religion, including some of my co-contributors on this site –Theresa Yugar, Sara Frykenberg, and Corinna Guerrero .  There were two panels that shared our reflections about authority from either student perspectives or diverse professional perspectives.  I shared my experiences as a student.  This workshop was a gathering where women scholars in religion could discuss the challenges and promises of our voices in the academy.  Because our dialogue was so inspiring to me, I thought I’d continue the discussion here. Continue reading “My Feminist Perspective of Authority – Part 1 by Elise M. Edwards”

On Cooking and Eating by Ivy Helman

In patriarchal heterosexist societies women do most if not all of the cooking for their families.  Women are also usually assigned the tasks of cleaning, raising children, tending the family garden, gathering water and anything else that is considered part and parcel of caring for the family.  These feminine tasks are often devalued compared to the activities men spend their time doing.  I wholeheartedly support the reevaluation of the significance of these tasks and the movement toward shared responsibility for family life among heterosexual couples, however that is not what I want to discuss today.

I want to explore the religious and spiritual significance of the food cooked by our mothers, grandmothers, aunts, sisters and female friends, especially those dishes we would consider to be comfort food.  Every person, every family has their own idea of what meals are comfort foods.  Bubbe’s matzah ball soup on Shabbat maybe?  Aunt Betsy’s Easter ham?  Mom’s turkey, gravy and oyster stuffing on Thanksgiving?  Your sister’s famous mac and cheese?    Continue reading “On Cooking and Eating by Ivy Helman”

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