Moderator’s note: Today’s blogpost was originally posted March 24, 2015. You can visit the original post here to see the comments.
This post is a response to a recent blog entry titled “Who is Gender Queer?” on this site from Carol Christ. It was posted yesterday. I want to thank my friend, advocate, and upcoming scholar Martha Ovadia for reasons only she knows! Stay brave, speak up, be heard!
It is terrifying to know that something is wrong but not be able to speak truth to power.
With every wonderful, heart-wrenching, deeply researched, and inspiring post I read on F.A.R., I feel less inclined to share my own somewhat out-of-step contributions to this world. Nevertheless, I keep reminding myself that they are the things that I do, and I do them because I feel compelled, and have consistently been compelled in those two specific directions — art and agriculture/wildcrafting — since childhood. Also, the paintings and prints are a product of my always thinking about and feeling into both feminism and spirituality, and the fruits of the intersection of the two. So here is another offering.
I’ve always had a fondness for the visual aspect of playing cards, and collect books on them. One image of an uncut sheet of cards printed in 1585 in Frankfurt, where the black and white cards were jammed in every which way on large sheets of paper, inspired the look of these four prints, The Cuisine Cards.
They are conceived as celebrating food and cultures from various parts of the world. The face cards are non-hierarchical in terms of rank and gender. The 10 is a Table of the suit’s food, then there are the Shaper, Mover, and Taster, who, although usually carrying on in a certain sequential order, each contribute equal value to the whole experience of eating food. Two suits have all female face cards and two all male.
As a follow up of my June FAR post, I am writing about soccer and the Women’s World Cup. The final aired on Sunday July 7th and saw the USA women beat the Netherlands 2-0. This historical win was the fourth time the USA women have won the World Cup since its inception. It was also the highest watched sporting event of the year.
This is the first part of a series of reflections on the weekly Torah portions. For those of you unfamiliar with Judaism, we read the Torah in sections. There are 52 parshot (or portions), one parshah (portion) is read each week (most often during Shabbat morning services). It is common for rabbis, prayer leaders or someone of the congregation to offer reflections on the week’s parshah at Shabbat services.
The parshah for this week is Shofetim. It is Devarim/Deuteronomy 16:18 – 21:9 and will be read this Shabbat, 18 August. Shofetim discusses a range of topics: setting up of a system of judges to make important decisions for Israel; the entitlements of the Levites; the rules of warfare; the importance of justice and just governments; and the acknowledgment of G-d as the true and highest Judge. It also warns Israel against false prophets and practices of idolatry. Shofetim contains a number of well-known verses including ‘justice, justice you shall pursue…(16:18),’ and notorious punishments like “…a tooth for a tooth; an eye for an eye…(19:21)” Continue reading “Lessons from Shofetim by Ivy Helman.”
It is quite common, I think, for Jewish feminists to gravitate to the first creation story of Genesis/Bereshit as an example of human equality but struggle to claim this same passage as an example of the goodness of embodiment. Genesis/Bereshit 1:27 reads, “So G-d created humankind in the divine image, in the image of G-d, the Holy One created them; male and female G-d created them.” In this passage, we have not only equality between men and women, in direct contrast to the second creation story, but also a description of human nature.
Our Creator made us in the divine image: b’tzelem Elohim. The most traditional explanations of b’tzelem Elohim describe our divine-likeness to mean: our intelligence, our capacity for goodness, our creativity as well as our inner divine spark. Most traditional teachings also understand this description as a prescription for action: since every single human being is made in the divine image, we must treat every single human being with respect, dignity, concern and so on. Continue reading “B’tzelem Elohim and Embodiment by Ivy Helman”
There is no correlation between difference and danger. Yet, differences are regularly considered threatening. In fact, much of Western society’s patriarchal energy is spent categorizing, controlling, managing and fighting difference. Difference is so ingrained within the psyche that most differences are understood to be antithetical, perhaps even unbridgeable, opposites. Good/bad, black/white, rich/poor, women/men and human/animal are just a few examples. To further amplify this distinction, patriarchy considers one aspect of the difference more valuable than the other.
Feminism seeks to end this value-laden, polarization of difference. In its earliest days, many feminists were convinced that advocating sameness was the best solution. Abolition, the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) and the right to vote were parts of this liberal agenda. While sameness worked in some respects especially in terms of ending slavery and gaining the right to vote, the sameness platform also, albeit perhaps unknowingly and considerably to a lesser degree, bought into patriarchal views of the dangers of difference. For example, ending slavery did not end racism nor did gaining the right to vote mean that women were equipped or allowed to think independently of their husbands. Other first-wave feminists who advocated women as pure and moral persons and elevated motherhood fared little better playing into the patriarchal ideals of biological determinism and essentialism. Continue reading “On Difference by Ivy Helman.”
We find our versions of home in these communities and it is within these spaces where our home not only begins to define who we are but we, as a reflection of that space, begin to outwardly redefine the spaces we exist in. If we slowly begin, through our experiences to shape our homes based on privilege and power without self-reflection and acknowledgment of others, then we are no better than those oppressive forces we say we’re against.
This post is a response to a recent blog entry titled “Who is Gender Queer?” on this site from Carol Christ. The post can be read by clicking here.I want to thank my friend, advocate, and upcoming scholar Martha Ovadia for reasons only she knows! Stay brave, speak up, be heard! _________________________________________
It is terrifying to know that something is wrong but not be able to speak truth to power.
It is even more terrifying to know something is wrong, be able to speak to it, and then silence those voices that do not have that same privilege, power, or position.
The struggle that many of us in positions of privilege and power face is not just that of being ostracizing and essentializing forces—it is that we, as allies, members of communities, or even those dedicated to a cause, can ourselves participate in the oppression we are fighting against and can do harm.
It’s taken me a long time to not only be comfortable with who I identify as, but also how I go about fighting and defining my life based on said identity and experience. However, the one thing that I have the ability to do is choose that identity more freely than others. Unlike Leelah Alcorn, Ash Haffner, Aniya Knee Parker, or Yaz’min Shancez pictured above, I did not have to face the types of oppressions they did, to which they sadly lost their lives, as a result of the fact that we exist in a society that can’t deal with the inability to leave things undefined or to allow people to define who they are on their own terms.
It is vital that although my lived experiences could never meet nor match the same types of oppression that these brave individuals had to face, I, as a white, cisgendered gay male, do not become part of their oppression through my own position and privilege.
As a man who exists in the world of feminism and within various women’s communities, I walk a daily tightrope of privilege and power to insure that I do not silence those that I consider allies, friends, mentors, or colleagues. As a man who exists in the world of the LGBTQ community, I walk an additional tightrope to additionally not take away from or diminish the experiences of those members of our community that do not have the same type of lived experiences as myself. Even within minority communities, there are positions of hierarchy and within these hierarchies of knowledge, identity, or power, comes a responsibility to insure that the oppressed do not become the oppressors.
We find our versions of home in these communities and it is within these spaces where our home not only begins to define who we are but we, as a reflection of that space, begin to outwardly redefine the spaces we exist in. If we slowly begin to shape our homes based on privilege and power without self-reflection and acknowledgment of others, then we are no better than those oppressive forces we say we’re against.
I can’t speak for what identity feels like –I can only speak for what essentializing does, and what it does is reflected in the deaths of Lelah, Ash, and the many others who die nameless. It is our responsibility, as allies, members of communities, and those fighting to end sexist, patriarchal, and, even now, homonormative oppression, to make sure that no more deaths occur on our watch or that truth is spoken to power even when power is masquerading around as truth.
John Erickson is a Ph.D. Candidate in American Religious History at Claremont Graduate University. He holds a MA in Women’s Studies in Religion; an MA in Applied Women’s Studies; and a BA in Women’s Literature and Women’s Studies. He is a Non-Fiction Reviewer for Lambda Literary, the leader in LGBT reviews, author interviews, opinions and news since 1989 and the Co-Chair of the Queer Studies in Religion section of the American Academy of Religion’s Western Region, the only regional section of the American Academy of Religion that is dedicated to the exploration of queer studies in religion and other relevant fields in the nation and the President of the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh’s LGBTQA+ Alumni Association. When he is not working on his dissertation, he can be found at West Hollywood City Hall where he is the Community Events Technician and works on policies and special events relating to women, gender, sexuality, and human rights issues that are sponsored or co-sponsored by the City of West Hollywood. He is the author of the blog From Wisconsin, with Love and can be followed on Twitter @JErickson85
My partner is a lawyer who works with asylum seekers and other immigrants here in the Czech Republic (ČR). She’s amazing at her job and I’m constantly in awe of her passion and commitment along with her righteous anger at systematic injustices. In fact just last week, her workplace, together with a consortium of other immigration organizations in the ČR, helped organize a demonstration in the center of Prague to protest the Czech Republic’s refusal to admit Syrian children and their families into the country. She invited me to attend the event with her. I went.
It was my first time attending a public demonstration in Europe. It was moving to see many of her co-workers there and inspiring to listen to the passionate speeches against xenophobia, Islamophobia, racism, the plight of the Roma people as well as the need to come together and welcome diversity. In addition, there were signs in Czech, German and English saying “No One is Illegal,” “End Xenophobia,” “Do Syrian Children Have to Wait for their (Nicholas) Winton?” “I want to have a Syrian Friend!” and “Refugees Welcome!” I wanted to hold each one of those signs! Continue reading “Being Scared: Fear and Authenticity by Ivy Helman”
As a former lover of Christ and ex-Pentecostalist, I had countless visions and dreams that one day I would be a spiritual leader. While growing up in the charismatic church, it was even prophesied that one day I would become one.
Nearly ten years after leaving the church, I carried a distrust in religion’s relationship with women and its barrier to free thought. My work as a freelance journalist led me to discover a spiritual women’s retreat held in North Bend, Washington. Inspired to experience a non-religious, spiritual gathering, I registered for the retreat held by Center for Spiritual Living (CSL) in Seattle.
“Trans-denominational, inter-generational, not-your-usual church, that was started in 1921. A safe place for ‘the rest of us’ who are looking to connect with God/Higher Power/Universal Presence, but don’t really fit in with any one religion.”
Women (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.
If a conservative religious traditions can’t give their mothers or sisters full equality, how can we expect them to give a GLBT individual the time of day?
Outrage. Anger. Fear. Hatred. These are just a few of the words that flashed across my Twitter feed as I woke up on that fateful Wednesday, June 26 morning when the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that the Defense of Marriage Act (or DOMA) was unconstitutional and that supporters of Proposition 8, the hotly contested voter initiative in California that banned same-sex marriage, had no standing. People were mad. However, it wasn’t just the typical kind of mad that is associated with hatred, it was a type of mad that was met with impossible anguish because what I was reading and feeling was a result of one thing: there was nothing more they could do.
What does all this mean? Questions from friends and family were filling up my inbox and although I wanted to take a moment to just hit “Reply All,” and input the words: Equality, I had to hold back and start to examine the notion that although equality may now be firmly on the proverbial table, there is still a lot of work to be done, specifically for gay marriage and those wanting to marrying inside the traditional church spaces they grew up in and not just the ones that have come out as open and affirming in recent years towards LGBT individuals. Continue reading “To Have and to Hold: Gay Marriage and the Religion Question”
The Vatican has created an entire theology of womanhood without the input of a single woman! Searching the Vatican archives reveals a wide range of documents pertaining to women, some of which mention women tersely only in their capacity as workers needing protection (Rerum novarum, 1891) and others are fully dedicated to describing the status, role and mission of women in the family, society and the world (Mulieris dignitatem, 1988). Within the documents, as time passes, women become their own category of theological importance. This is due to the influence of feminism on the status and roles of women across the globe. Yet, there is vehement anti-feminism in the documents as well.
No longer having to deconstruct the larger cultural and sexual narratives, heterosexuals who do not support marriage equality or feel threatened by homosexuals return to their one source of power that reinforces the ideology that they are on the right path: the Bible. “Marriage is between a man a woman,” or “A man shall not lie with another man as he would a woman,” becomes the newly reinforced heterosexual rallying cry and the progressive progress that occurred in the past becomes nothing more than a joke.
I must say, I will be the first to admit that the recent outbreak of videos promulgating the idea that gay men will marry a straight guy’s girlfriend or lesbians will marry a straight girl’s boyfriend all for the sake of marriage equality left me stifling my laughter as I attempted to pay attention in class.
Male feminists must be aware that we not only engage in an ongoing struggle against sexual and gender inequality, but more importantly an ongoing fight with ourselves.
I have often struggled with that little voice, call it my conscience if you will, that speaks to me during times of distress. Although I consider myself a proud feminist, I still struggle with aspects of what I call, internalized misogyny, or more aptly defined as a male born characteristic trait that imparts the idea that men are not only dominant but also more powerful than the other 50% of the species.
Can women have it all? Possibly. Can men ever have it all? Maybe. Regardless of however we put it, the are ills to every good deed in the world and we need to get back to understanding how and why we use each other in order to fully understand that behind every good man might be a good woman but also behind every good women there might also be a good man.
Growing up, my favorite movie was The Associate staring Whoopi Goldberg as a woman at a Wall Street firm attempting to climb her way up the corporate ladder through hard work and dedication. Her character Laurel Ayres does all the work and comes up with the ideas that clients eventually invest in, her partner Frank takes all the credit and eventually surpasses her at work by getting the promotion she had been vying for. In a prodigious scene that I still vividly remember from my childhood, Laurel quits her job and starts an investment firm on her own; betting every cent and piece of property she has on the eventual success of her new business adventure.
In an attempt to break through the proverbial glass ceiling and play with the big boys of Wall Street, Laurel eventually discovers that although she can be (and is) the genius behind many of the great ideas that would save companies millions, she still needs to have her ideas expelled by a man she creates in order to win over clients, which eventually leads her to become successful. However, while Laurel is reaping in the benefits of having Mr. Cutty, her made up business partner, by her side, she eventually learns that no matter what she does she will always be secondary to her male business partner. Continue reading “Why Men (and Women) Can’t Have It All by John Erickson”
I forgot, that relationships, like feminism, are not easy, and that it is a conscious and continual effort of renewal to remind yourself everyday why you love the person you love and more importantly, in the case of feminism, why you fight, “the good fight.”
I was once told by my ardent feminist advisor in undergrad to “not put all my proverbial eggs in one man basket” after discussing my relationship with my boyfriend over a cup of coffee. Thinking my relationship was different and that we were special, I heeded the warning but thought of it no further. Now, looking back on it three in a half years later, I wish I would have.
Relationships are a powerful tool. They help to make you feel special. They help to bring you joy. They help you discover the reason why a divine presence may have endowed us with the ability to love and most importantly they help you realize and discover things about yourself you may have never taken the time to notice.
Feminism 101 is more than just the pop culture stereotype of a bunch of women advising the younger generation of girls to be weary of men and the pain they can bring. Feminism, specifically as what I now call Feminism 101, is the transformative ability to listen to your elders, trust yourself, and ultimately, if you happen to trust in the relationship you have built, knowing deep down that it is built on equality, love, and trust. Continue reading “Why I Failed Feminism 101: Gender, Sexuality, and the Power of Relationships”
“A Day of Silence” occurs tomorrow, April 20th. Created in 1996, University of Virginia students wanted to raise awareness of the bullying and harassment of issues that LGBT students faced on campus. Since then, A Day of Silence makes a statement against those who have tried to silence LGBT teens and young adults in school through harassment, bias, abuse, and bullying. Participating students, led by GLSEN, will hand out cards that read the following:
“Please understand my reasons for not speaking today. I am participating in the Day of Silence, a national youth movement protesting the silence faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and their allies in schools. My deliberate silence echoes that silence, which is caused by harassment, prejudice, and discrimination. I believe that ending the silence is the first step toward fighting these injustices. Think about the voices you are not hearing today. What are you going to do to end the silence?”
The issue of bullying LGBT teens resonated with the world when Tyler Clementi took his life in 2010 after his roommate secretly transmitted via webcam Tyler’s sexual encounter with someone of the same sex. Tyler’s suicide brought national attention to the issue of bullying and harassment that LGBT people face. To my chagrin, while writing this article, another victim fell. Kenneth Weishuhn, Jr., a 14-year-old gay teen, committed suicide because of the intolerable harassment and bullying he dealt with at school.
“We need to start examining the underlying questions of counter-cultural relationships that view one man marrying many women to be hip because we begin to see that although a polygamist idea of marriage may be sexy from a popular culture standpoint, the thought of legally recognized gay marriage always then gets likened to bestiality.”
… you have to allow polygamy, bestiality, and everything else!” The title for my post this week is a quote from an individual I used to associate with. This individual, haling from a conservative evangelical background, tried to explain to several others and myself the reasons why gay marriage would eventually lead to the repeal of anti-polygamy and bestiality laws across the United States.
I often feel that there is this need both within and outside religious communities to promulgate the idea that LGBTQ individuals want to get married within the sanctified walls of “the church” just as much as heterosexual couples do. Although I do not want to disqualify those who desire to see LGBTQ equality within their faith based communities, buying into a heternormative ideal of what traditional marriage should look like needs to result in LGBTQ individuals asking why marriage should be performed in sacred spaces in the first place The normative traditions that have often defined marriage have also served as shackles keeping LGBTQ couples in the mindset that to achieve fully marriage equality with their heterosexual counterparts is to fully immerse themselves within the same traditions and practices. Continue reading ““If You Allow Gay Marriage…” by John Erickson”
Several months ago, my husband and I had a fascinating dinnertime discussion on whether or not we have a ‘just love’. I had been reading one of the foremost ethicists on the subject of Christian sexual ethics — a Catholic nun by the name of Margaret Farley who taught at the Yale Divinity School for over 30 years. Her book is called Just Love.
The framework for sexual ethics that Farley comes up with highlights her commitment to the importance of justice in sexual relationships. For Farley, love is not enough. Love alone can be based on fantasy, it can be manipulative, it can look at the other only as a means to an end. Therefore, in her sexual ethical framework, love must coincide with justice. Just love must contain these seven norms: